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Penguin Classics Memoirs Of My Life Paperback – May 28 1984


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classic; 1 edition (May 28 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140432175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140432176
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #512,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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A lively desire of knowing and recording our ancestors so generally prevails that it must depend on the influence of some common principle in the minds of men. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 18 1998
Format: Paperback
Edward Gibbon left only six incomplete manuscripts detailing his life and efforts at the time of his death. The editor, B. Radice, surpassing all previous efforts has edited them into a concise, remarkably fluid narrative. She has wisely included the various self-criticisms that his first editor, John Holroyd, left out of the first 1796 edition of the Memoirs and they reveal Gibbon to be not merely a formidable intellect and perspicacious observer of both English and Swiss society but also witty, a bit vain, self-indulgent, and more approachable than his reputation would suggest. Occasionnaly the odd sentence or fragment is repeated to ill effect and the fragmentary nature of this work provides its own frustrations: Gibbon will start discussing an intriguing subject such as the writing of the Decline and Fall and then suddenly shift to another subject. And even though Gibbon avoids the embarassing candor which crops up in Rousseau, one could argue that even in its unfinished form, there's a bit too much polish on the surface- Gibbon obviously sees his life as something of a finished product and the self-reflection of the earlier part becomes a bit too self-congratulatory later on. Moroever, the editors have provided two sets of footnotes for the seventh and eighth chapters - theirs and Gibbon's, which makes for a lot of back and forth reading. Still, Gibbon's account of the difficulties in finding time to read, to research, and to cultivate his intellect in the face of outside engagements, as well as his lucid observations on his family life, his friendships and his decision not to marry make for compelling reading. Rarely has such a figure provided so thorough an account of his life in so little space. For anyone who wants a clearly written and forthright account of why Gibbon came to be the man he was would surely profit from a persual of this engaging little work.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Gibbon's fragments fashioned into a fascinating whole. May 18 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Edward Gibbon left only six incomplete manuscripts detailing his life and efforts at the time of his death. The editor, B. Radice, surpassing all previous efforts has edited them into a concise, remarkably fluid narrative. She has wisely included the various self-criticisms that his first editor, John Holroyd, left out of the first 1796 edition of the Memoirs and they reveal Gibbon to be not merely a formidable intellect and perspicacious observer of both English and Swiss society but also witty, a bit vain, self-indulgent, and more approachable than his reputation would suggest. Occasionnaly the odd sentence or fragment is repeated to ill effect and the fragmentary nature of this work provides its own frustrations: Gibbon will start discussing an intriguing subject such as the writing of the Decline and Fall and then suddenly shift to another subject. And even though Gibbon avoids the embarassing candor which crops up in Rousseau, one could argue that even in its unfinished form, there's a bit too much polish on the surface- Gibbon obviously sees his life as something of a finished product and the self-reflection of the earlier part becomes a bit too self-congratulatory later on. Moroever, the editors have provided two sets of footnotes for the seventh and eighth chapters - theirs and Gibbon's, which makes for a lot of back and forth reading. Still, Gibbon's account of the difficulties in finding time to read, to research, and to cultivate his intellect in the face of outside engagements, as well as his lucid observations on his family life, his friendships and his decision not to marry make for compelling reading. Rarely has such a figure provided so thorough an account of his life in so little space. For anyone who wants a clearly written and forthright account of why Gibbon came to be the man he was would surely profit from a persual of this engaging little work.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I concur with the review of "a reader" March 20 2005
By Drake-by-the-Lake - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The review, "Gibbon's fragments fashioned into a fascinating whole", written on May 18, 1998, was the basis upon which I purchased this book, and experience proved it entirely accurate and deserving of the many Helpful votes.

In my review of Betty Radice's edition of Gibbon's Memoirs, I will begin with the negatives, which as you might guess from my five star rating, are minor and failed to distract from my enjoyment and education. However, take into account I am unacquainted with other editions or publishers, and chose this one solely based on what I read on Amazon. There may be better editions available; mainly I am reacting to Gibbon rather than this particular version.

Based upon fragments pieced together, his Memoirs have several instances where the same paragraph or sentence, mildly altered, is repeated a few pages forward. This is an annoying and unnecessary defect, but our editor shrinks from presuming to edit Gibbon, though I would say, in this case, courage might not have set the Master turning in his grave, and would spare readers needless confusion.

The very necessary (due to Gibbon's frequent obscure references) Notes which are not authored by Gibbon are unwisely located at the very end of the book, rather than at the bottom of the page where they occur. This necessitates flipping back and forth.

The Publisher, Penguin, used a small font which punishes the eyes, in order to spare the cost of an extra fifty pages or so. It is a sad commentary they held this important work in such apparent contempt, but probably it was not destined to sell many copies, with its lack of the requisite sex and violence.

With its depiction of a human being strangely specialized to be a pure intellect that, by deliberate choice, spends an entire lifetime working with thoughts and ideas, this book may fail to appeal to all readers, but anyone who loves, as I do, Gibbon's masterpiece, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," must be burning with curiosity about the author, which often happens when one finds a writer one really likes. Personally, I found the Memoirs fascinating and read every page with eagerness.

The author reveals his pecadillos: vanity, a disdain for physical exercise, intellectual elitism, and a disdain for representative government. But we also appreciate his virtues: courage, diligence, duty, intellectual honesty, loyalty, and not least of all, genius. If you paid over fifty dollars for the Decline and Fall, as I did, and really plan to read it over the course of a year or so, then why not lay out a few extra dollars for the Memoirs?
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The definitive edition of a neglected classic Jan. 18 2008
By Mark Klobas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
With his name forever linked to his classic account of the collapse of the Roman empire, Edward Gibbon's other works are often overlooked - and in the case of his memoirs, unjustly so. Comprised of six separate drafts, they were combined after his death with notes and memoranda into the first published edition. Yet the initial edition was a much a work of the editor, who made a number of adulterations. It was not until a century after Gibbon's death that the original drafts were published, though subsequent editions still reflected the influence of the earlier work.

In this edition, Georges Bonnard provides a single coherent text free of the influence of the early alterations. By providing the full text of Gibbon's work with footnotes and appendices showing how he integrates the overlapping accounts, he allows readers both to read the story of Gibbon's life - his early years and education, his tours of Europe, and his time in Parliament - and see the changes the great historian made from draft to draft. Bonnard supplements all of this with endnotes providing the context of Gibbon's references and tying the text in with other relevant writings. Anyone who is interested in how this great historian wrote and lived will profit from Bonnard's labors, which have produced the definitive edition of a book as great in its own way as Gibbon's more famous work.

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