The Cheap Attainment of So Much Learning

Edward Gibbon, Memoirs of My Life and Writings

“From the references in that unequal collection, and from an useful treatise, the Ductor Historicus of Hearne, I obtained some knowledge of the Greek and Latin Historians. As many as were accessible to an English student I endeavoured to procure, and all were devoured in their turns — from Littlebury’s lame Herodotus, and Spelman’s valuable Xenophon, to the pompous folios of Gordon’s Tacitus, and a ragged Procopius of the beginning of the last Century. The cheap attainment of so much learning confirmed my dislike to the study of language, and I represented to my aunt that, were I master of Latin and Greek, I must interpret to myself in English thethoughts of the original, and that such hasty extemporary versions would be probably inferior to the elaborate translations of professed scholars : a feeble sophism, but which could not be easily refuted by a person ignorant of any language but her own. My literary wants began to multiply ; the circulating libraries of London and Bath were exhausted l)y my importunate demands, and my expenses in books surpassed the measure of my scanty allowance. “

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