Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Taking Edward Gibbon for Task

Edward Gibbon got some fifty seven years on this planet and used them to do what would certainly classify his as one of the most effective lives from the worldly point of view. He wrote the history of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. After publication of that book it was put to very vigorous scrutiny and after all the hue and cry it turned out that after all he had got it right and the critics got it wrong. But the western critics do think that they got the author on at least one point - his harsh treatment of Christianity. Critics agree that Gibbon is tough on religion and he is more tough on Christianity. One curious fact that stuck yours truly is the observation by George Saintsbury that Gibbon chose to talk about a period that was already agreed upon as the dark age of Europe. This is a disingenuous. Europe's admission of guilt does not absolve them of the responsibility. To be fair to the critic he is not making a not-guilty proposition. But he certainly is hinting that we should simply not talk about it - the attitude that Europe usually adopts. While taunting a society for the actions of their generations many centuries ago is not decent by any stretch of imagination but exemption on the grounds of acceptance of crime is sorcery. The critic is guilty of that.