I shall venture to defend Gibbon to you.
I don't find him smug. It seems to me
that, behind the genuine belief in prog-
ress there is always, in Gibbon, a sub-
tlety, a sensitivity, occasionally a mel-
ancholy, which is totally absent from
(say) Voltaire. I suppose I have, by now,
got so used to the formal style that I
hardly notice it, and I enjoy all the
more the urbanity, the irony, the human-
ity, which underlies it. Also I love the
marvelous precision of language, the ex-
act choice of words to convey such del-
icate shades and ambiguities of meaning.
Do write again: I love
your letters, and I long to hear from you. Do keep well. I wish I could see you.
Regius Professor of History
Master of Peterhouse
Lord Dacre of Glanton
Letter to Gerald Brenan
11 March 1968
and Adam Sisman, editors
One Hundred Letters from
Oxford University Press, 2014©