F**k Your Faulty Footnotes, Fool!

Henry Edwards Davis,

An Examination of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters of Mr. Gibbon’s History:

“The remarkable mode of quotation, which Mr. Gibbon adopts, must immediately strike ever one who turns to his notes. He sometimes only mentions the author, perhaps the book, and often leaves the reader the toil of finding out, or rather guessing at the passage.

The policy, however, is not without its design and use. By endeavouring to deprive us of the means of comparing him with the authorities he cites, he flattered himself, no doubt, that he might safely have recourse to misrepresentation; that his inaccuracies might escape the piercing eye of criticism; and that he might indulge his wit and spleen, in fathering the absurdest opinions of the most venerable writers of antiquity. For, often, on examining his references, when they are to be traced, we shall find him supporting his cause by manifest falsification, and perpetually assuming to himself the strange privilege of inserting in his text what the writers referred to give him no right to advance on their authority.

This breach of the common faith reposed in authors, is particularly indefensible, as it deceives all those who have not the leisure, the means, nor the abilities, of searching out the passages in the originals.”

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