John Holroyd Sheffield (Earl of) Edward Gibbon.

The auto-biography of Edward Gibbon, esq: Illustrated from his letters, with ... online

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dable aspect. But let us turn from this melancholy
subject — ^The Man of the People escaped from the
tumult, the bloody tumult of the Westminster election, to
the lakes and mountains of Switzerland, and I was
informed that he was arrived at the Lion d'Or. 1 sent a
eompliment ; he answered it in person, and settled at my



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S50 NABBATIVE CONTINUED BY LORD SHEFFIELD.

house for the remainder of the day. I have ate and
drank, and conversed and sat up bI\ night with Fox in
England ; but it never has happened, perhaps it never can
happen again, that I should enjoy him as I did that day,
alone, from ten in the morning till ten at night. Poor
Dey verdun, before his accident, wanted spirits to appear,
and has rjegretted it since. Our conversation never
jSagged a moment ; and he seemed thoroughly pleased
with the place and with his company* We had little
politics ; though he gave me, in a few words, such a cha*
racter of Pitt, as one great man should give of another
his rival ; much of books, from my own, on which he
flattered me very pleasantly, to Homer and the Arabian
Nights ; much about the country, my garden (which he
understands far better than I do), and, upon the whole, I
think he envies n^, and would do so were he minister.
The next morning I gave him a guide to walk him about
the town and country, and invited some company to
meet him at dinner. The following day he continued
his journey to Berne and Zurich, and I have heard of him
by various means. The people gaze on him as a prodigy,
but he shows little inclination to converse with them.
* * ♦ *. Our friend Douglas has been curious, at*
tentive, agreeable ; and in every place where he has re-
sided some days, he has left acquaintance who esteem
and regret him : I never knew so clear and general
an impression*

After this long letter I have yet many things to say,
though none of any pressing consequence. I hope you
are not idle in the deliverance of Beriton, though the late
events and edicts in France begin to reconcile me to the



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NARRATIVE CONTINUED BY LORD SHEFFIELD. 261

possession of dirty acres. What think you of Necket
and the States General? Are not the public expecta-
tions too sahguine? Adieu, I wDl write soon t6 my
lady separately, though I have not any particular subject
for her ear. Ever yours.

« Lausanne, Nov. 29, 1788.

As I have no correspondents but yourself, I should
have been reduced to the stale and stupid communica*
tions of the newspapers, if you had not dispatched me an
excellent sketch of the extraordinary state of things. In
8o new a case the salus populi must be the first law ;
and any extraordinary acts of th^ two remaining
branches of the legislature must be excused by necessity,
and ratified by general consent. * *♦***.
Till things are settled, I expect a regular journal.

From kingdoms I descend to farms. *♦**».
Adieu. •

Lausanne, Dec. 13, 1788.

# ♦ ♦ # * #^ Of public aflfairs I can only hear
with curiosity and wonder : careless as you may think
me, I feel deeply interested. You must now write often ;
make Miss Firth copy any curious fragments ; and stir
up any of my well-informed acquaintance, Batt, Douglas,
Adam, perhaps Lord Loughborough, to correspond with
me ; I will answer them.

We are now cold and gay at Lausanne. The Severys
came to town yesterday, I saw a good deal of Lords
Malmsbury and Beauchamp and their ladies ; Ellis, of
the Rolliad, was With them; I like him much: I gave
them a dinner.
, Adieu for the present Dey verdun is not worse.



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45S NARRATIVE CONTINUED BY LORD 8HFEFIELD.

LauBanne, April 25, 1789.

Before your letter, which I received yesterday, I wad
in the anxious situation of a kmg, who hourly expecjts a
courier from his genera], with the news of a decisive en-
gagement. I had abstained from writing, for fe^x of
dropping a word, or betraying a feeling, which might
render you too cautious or too bold. On the famous 8th
of April, between twelve and two, I reflected that the
business was determined ; and each succeeding day 1
computed the speedy approach of your messenger, with
favourable or melancholy tidings. When I broke the
seal I expected to read, " What a d — — d unlucky fellow
you are ! Nothing tolerable was offered, and I indig-
nantly withdrew the estate.** I did tememher the fate of
poor Lenborough, and I was afraid of your magnanimity,
&c. It is whimsical enough, but it is human nature, that
I now began to think of the deep-rooted foundations of
land, and the airy fabric of the funds. I not only con-
sent, but even wish to have eight or ten thousand pounds
on a good mortgage. The pipe of wine you sent me was
seized, and would have been confiscated, if the govern^
Tnent of Berne had not treated me with the most flatter-
ing and distinguished civility : they not only released the
wine, but they paid out of their own pockets the shares
to which the bailiff and the informer were entitled by
law. I should not forget that the bailiff refused to ac-
cept of his part. Poor Dey verdun's constitution is quite
broken; he has had two or three attacks, not so violent
as the first : every time the door is hastily opened, I ex-
pect to hear of some fatal accident : the best or worst
hopes of the physicians are only that he may Imger soma



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NABBATIYE CONTINUED BY LOBD SHEFFIELD. 853



time longer ; but, if he liyes till the summer, they pro-
pose sending him to some mineral waters at Aix, in
Savoy. You will be. glad to hear that I am now assured
of possessing, during my life, this delighful house and
garden. The act has been lately executed in the best
form, and the handsomest manner. I know not what to
say of your miracles at home : we rejoice in the king's
recovery, and its ministerial consequences ; and I cannot
be insensible to the hope, at. least the chance, of seeing in
this country a first lord of trade, or secretary at wan In
your answer, which I shall impatiently expect, you will
give me a full and true account of your designs, which
by this time must have dropped, or be determined at
least, for the present year. If you come, it is high time
that we should look out for a house — a task much less
easy than you may possibly imagine. Among new
books, I recommend to you the Count de Mirabeau's
great work, Sur la Monarchic Prussienne; it is in your
own way, and gives a very just and complete idea of
that wonderful machine. His Correspondance Secrette
is diabolically good. Adieu. Ever yours.

Laiuaiine, June 13, 1789.

You are in truth a wise, active, indefatigable, and in-
estimable friend ; and as our virtues are often connected
with our faults, if you were more tame and placid, you
would be perhaps of less use and value. A very im-
portant and difficult transaction seems to be nearly ter-
minated with success and mutual satisfaction : we seem
to run before the wind with a prosperous gale ; and, un-
less we should strike on some secret rocks, which I do



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ii4 HAMlATlVt CONtlNtt£D BY LORD SHfiFFIElft.

iTW •■■■I ' '-^ — ; I.. ' ] 7^

BOV {(tf&f^^i ^hftUf on 6r before th^ 31sf July^ Mt6r thd
harbour of Cdfitdnt; though I canftot purdud the robtA^
phot by ftdding \r€i ^hall hnd^ dince o^ir operation itf of
A very oppo^iui tetid^&cy* I cOuld not ea»i)y fi^rfivo
tfiyself for shttttittg you tip in a dark room \irith pftreh^
memii ftnd ftttottieys, did I ttot reiS^ct thut this probttbly
k th# la«t material trouble that you mtUI ever have an my
aoootifit; afid that after the labourii and delays of twemy
yearsi I fthall at la^ attain tvbat I have alwaya Sighed
Ibr, a elear aad 6d»iipetent iaeofttey above my ^Mt^» ajad
equal to my wi6he«» In this eotitemplation you will ber
uttfteiently rewarded. I hope **** will be ooutent with
dQr title^deedd, for I eaui^et furnish ai^other shred t4
parohmem. Utit Qibbon'e jointure 10 secured on thc^
Beritofl estatei and her legal eom^ent i« requidite for ibo
sAle. Apfilt and again I must repeat my hope that 8h9
ii prfeetly satisfied^ and that the clode of her life may
am be embittered by suspieion) or fear» or diseon^
t»nii What fiew aecurity doe« she prefer^— the funda,
tl»i mortgage^ or your land ? At all events dhe mu&t bo
made easy. I wrote to her again some time agO| and
begged that if she were too weak to write, she would de-
sire Mrs. Gould or Mrs. Holroyd to give me a line con-
cerning her state of health. To this no answer ; I am
afhiid sthe iift displeased.

Now for the disposal of the money : I approve of tfce
£8000 mortgage on Beriton; and honour your prudenee
in hot showing by the cotnparison of the rent and li^
terest, how fooliuh It is to purchase land. • * * ♦
*»^*#»###»»», Thereisatihanoe
of my drawing a considerable sum into thi» country, ftr



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nui arrftttg^m^ftt which ypu yoqnwif imuHt approve, but
whieH I have »ot time to wplwn at pr^ieAt* For the
mi/^ of diipatebiag, hy thi^ Qv^nlng's po^t, a& ansn^or to
your letter which ftrriv§d thifi moxnlngf I oqv^q myielf
to th^ mi^vJ^ but ijn the course of & few dnyf I will
«r»id n mora £imUiar ^puitlf, A4im> iiv§jr y<»ir9,

Poor D0yrerdon is no more : h« expirod Sfitiirday the
4th instjint: and in Hs onfortim^io sHnation* doatb coujd
iQiily be viewed by hiroBal^ aad Ub {rmAM* m the liglrt of
a conwmmatipa dovoody to be ^iisdi«d. £fiiic9 S#pt«m-
b^ he ha« ba4 a dozsfk apoplectic 9tmbe«j f9orQ or ins
yiotoat { fn ^ interyale betw<ew th^sn hiP f tre»gth grarf-
ttaHy xtecayed; ev^ pripcjipj^. of life i«^ft«i ^xhaurtrf;
ttid had ho o^oltiaiQ^ to drag ja ^ai^orablf mkiem^i h^
nwiat pr<9baWy bav« furviv^ the Ipsp ^{ hi^ fg^uljiw.
Of all ffii9fi^rtufi«« ifcif was what he bvn^eff ipoft gppr«-
hoftded: hut hi9 xewo^ ^vap ckar asd^oahnto [email protected] hi#t;
ks h^b^ld hk apj^M^hing di«gK)lt}ti£»^ ^itb thf €rf^B«9s
of a phi]oii^hor« I &n<^d ih^A ti«)9 a«4 FfiQ§^t¥m hftd
|?fapai5©d lea fer tbo sr^tf', hvt tte hahit# pf tfer^^^i^.
Iferty yjfir's frjeaAship aro wt jw) ^aMly br<*e», The
first dayfi» w jnore oap^idly ih§ fir^ iaigbts, urare m^^
fnanfel Idiil W«d*^day iw4 Sat»rdJ*y it w^M »pt
hai^a boon Ip noy powar t9 w^ta. I »aurt jww r^oU^t
mypdff m^ it i^ wc^^imht f<?3r ^e »ot wly to iwpart
lbi9 «^ws,i b^ tp a^ your ppiw^A in a v^y lueriojiM 9a4
4^ubtf»} ^ineaUm, ^hjieh amst hf^ dapidad without lp«a of
tffioa- I shall stcyt^ th« fyetSf \hiX ^ I m^ <>^th^ ^poU
md «u3 WW lights ipay ^o^(Q»r^ I do not p?;pwi$^ impUoit
obedience.



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»5« NAERATIVE CONTINUED BY LORD SHEFFIELD.

Had my poor friend died without a will, a female first
cousin settled somewhere in the north of Germany, and
whom I believe be had never seen, would have been his
heir at law. In the next degree he had several cousins ;
and one of these an old companion, by name M. de Mon-
tagny, he has chosen for his heir. As this house and
garden was the best and clearest part of poor Dey verdun's
fortune ; as there is a heavy doty or fine (what they
call l&ds) on every change of property out of the legal
descent ; as Montagny has a ismall estate and a large
family, il was necessary to make some provision in his
favour. The will therefore leaves me the option of en-
ioying this place during my life, on pa5ring the sum of
£250 (I reckon in Engiish money) at present and im
annual rent of £30 ; or else of purchasing the house snd
garden for a sum which, including the duty, wil) amount
to £2500. If I value the rent of £30 at twelve years'
purchase, I may acquire my enjoyment for life at about
the rate of £600 ; and the remaining £1900 will be the
difference between that tenure and absolute perpetual
property. As you have never accused me of too much
zeal for the interest of posterity, you will easily guess
which scale at first preponderated. 1 deejjy felt the
advantage of acquiring, for the smaller sum, every pos*
sible enjoyment, as long as I myself should be capable of
enjoying : I rejected with scorn, the idea of giving £1900
for ideal posthumous property ; and I deemed it of little
moment whose name, after my death should be inscribed
on my house and garden at Lausanne. How often did I
repeat to myself the philosopical lines of Pope, which
seemed to determine the question ;



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NABRATIVE CiWrriNUED BY LORD SHEFHELD J57

Praj HesTen, criet Swift, itlaft ai yoa go on ;
I wish to God this house had been yoor own.
Titj to boild without or son or wife :
yfhy, you'll enjoy it only all your life.
Well, if the use be mind« does it concern one.
Whether the name belong to Pope or Vernon 1

In this state of self-satisfaction I was not much dig*
turbed by all my real or nominal friends, who exhort me
to prefer the right of purchase: among such friends,
some are careless and some are ignorant ; and the judg-
ment of those, who are able and willing to form an
opinion, is often biassed by some selfish or social affection,
by some visible or invisible interest. But my own re-
flections have gradually and forcibly driven me from my
first propensity ;' and these reflections I will now proceed
to enumerate :

1. I can make this purchase with ease and prudence.
As I have had the pleasure of not hearing from you very
lately, I flatter myself that you advance on a carpet
road, and that almost by the receipt of this letter (July
31st) the acres of Benton will be transmuted into sixteen
thousand pounds : if the payment be not absolutely com-
pleted on that day, **** will not scruple, I suppose,
depositing the £2600 at Gk>sling's, to meet my draft
Should he hesitate, I can desire Darell to sell qtuintum
sufficit of my short annuities. As soon as the new
settlement of my affairs is made, I shall be able, after
deducting this sum, to square my expense to my in-
come, &c.

2. On mature consideration, I am perhaps less selfish
and less philosophical than I appear at first sight : indeed,
were I not so, it would now be in my power to turn my for-



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S5« NAERATIVE COKTINUEO BY LOKD SHEFFIBLO.

tune into life-anniiities, and let the devil take the hindmost
1 feel, (perhaps it is foolish,) but I ft^l that this little
paradise will pleas© me jstill more when it U absolutely
liiy own ; and that I shall bo ^mmr^g^ ia erery im-
provement of use or beauty, by the prospect that, after
my departure, it will be enjoyed by some person of my
own choice. I sometimes reflect with pleasui^ that my
writbgs will survive me: and that idea is at least as
vain and chimerical.

3. The heir, M. de Montagny, is an old acquaintance.
My situation of a life-holder is rather new and singidar
in this country: the laws have not provided for many nice
cases which may arise between the landlord and tenant :
some I can forsee, others have been suggested, rnany
more I might feel when it would be too late. His right
of property might plague and confine me : he might
forbid my lending to a friend, insp^t my conduct, check
tny improvements, call for securities, repairs, &c. But
if I purchase^ I walk on my own terrace, fierce and erect,
the free master of one of the most delicious spots oi;i the
globe.

Should I ever migrate homewardai, <you stare, but juch
an event is less improbable t}mn I eoixld Imve thought it
two years ago,) this place wowld be diluted fey stra»g«w
and natives.

Weigh these reasons, and send me without d^«y*
rational explicit opinion, to which I shall pay such regard
as the nature of circumstances will allow. JB*it, 9hfi \
whm all is determijoed, I shaH powws tU» ho^se, by
whatsoever tenure, without friendship or domestic society*
I did not imagine, six yeanj ago, that ft pla© of Rife i»o



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Narrative coNtiNtJfiD Bt tORD fiHEfFiEta 359

> M l I I ... I. I I . .1 . , ■ r . . 1. I ll I ^t _

congenial U) my wishes, would no speedily vanish. I
cannot write upon any other subject. Adieu^ yours
ever*

After receiving and dispatching the power of attorney^
last Wednesday, I opened with soma palpitation, the tm*
expected missive which arrived this morning* The
t^rusal of the contents spoiled my breakfast. They are
disagreeable in themselves^ alarming in their conse^
quences) and peculiarly unpleasant at the present moment^
when I hoped to have formed and secured the arrange*
ments of my future life. I do not perfectly under?
stand what are these deeds which are so inflexibly re*
quired I the wills and marriage^settlements I have suffi»
ciently answered. But your arguments do not convince
*••*, and I have very little hope from the Lenborough
search T What will be the event t If his objections are
only the t^sult of legal scrupulosity, surely they might
be removed, and every chink might be {illed,by a general
bond of indemnity, in which I boldly ask you to join, as
it wiH be a substantial important act of friendship, witb«
out any possible risk to yourself or your successors*
Should he «till remain obdurate, I must believe what I
already suspect, that **** repents of his purchase, and
wishes to elude the conclusion. Our case would be then
hopeless^ ibi ^mhis effums tabdf^ and the estate would be
returned on our hands with the taint of a bad title. The
refusal of mortgl^^ does not please me ; but surely our
offi^r shows iome confidence in the goodness of my title«
If he will not take eight thousand pounds at /oierjper cenU
we must look c^i elsewhere; new doubts and delays



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260 NARRAtlVE CONTINUED BY LORD SHEFFIEL6.

will arise, and I am persuaded that you will not place an
implicit confidence in any attorney, I know not as yet
your opinion about my Lausanne purchase. If you are
against it, the present position of afiairs gives you great
advantage, &c., &c. The Severys are all well; an
uncommon circumstance for the four persons of the
family at once. They are now at Mex, a country-house
six miles from hence, which I visit to-morrow for two or
three days. They often come to town, and we shall con-
trive to pass a part of the autumn together at Rolle. I
want to change the scene ; and beautiful as the garden
and prospect must appear to every eye, I feel that the
state of my own mind casts a gloom over them; every
spot, every walk, every bench, recals the memory of
those hours, of those conversations, which will return no
more. But I tear myself from the subject I could not
help writing to-day, though I do not find I have said
anything very material. As you must be conscious that
you have agitated me, you will not postpone any agree-
able, or even decisive intelligence. I almost hesitate,
whether I shall run over to England, to consult with you
on the spot, and to fly from poor Deyverdun's shade, which
meets me at every turn. I did not expect to have felt
his loss so sharply. But six hundred miles I Why are
we so far off?

Once more. What is the difficulty with the title ? Will
men of sense, in a sensible country, never get rid of the
tyranny of lawyers ? more oppressive and ridiculous than
even the old yoke of the clergy. Is not a term of seventy
or eighty years, nearly twenty in my own person, sufficient
to prove our legal possession ? Will not the records of



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"flARRATIVE CONTINUED BY LORD SHEFFIELD. tei

fines and recovBTies attest that / am free from any bar of
entails and settlements ? Consult some sage of the law^
whether their present demand be necessary and legal.
If your ground be firm, force them to execute the agree*
ment or forfeit the deposit. But if, as I much fear, they
have a right, and a wish, to elude the consummation,
would it not be better to release them at Once, than to be
hung up for five years, as in the case of Lovegrove,
which cost me in the end four or five thousand pounds!
You are bold, you are wise ; consult, resolve, act. In my
penultimate letter I dropped a strange hint, that a migra-
tion homeward was not impossible. I know not what to
say ; my mind is all afloat ; yet you will not reproach
me with caprice or inconsistency. How many years did
you d — n my scheme of retiring to Lausanne ! I ex-
ecuted that plan ; I found as much happiness as is com-
patible with human nature, and during four years (1783
1787) I never breathed a sigh of repentance. On my
return from England the scene was changed: I found
only a feint semblance of Deyverdun, and that semblance
was each day fading from my sight. I have passed an
anxious year, my anxiety is now at an end, and the pros-
pect before me is a melancholy solitude. I am still deeply
rooted in this country ; the possession of this paradise,
the friendship of the Sever/s, a mode of society suited to
my taste, and the enormous trouble and expense of
a migration. Yet in England (when the present clouds
are dispelled) I could form a very comfortable establish-
ment in London, or rather at Bath; and I have a very
noble country-seat at about ten miles from East Grin-



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m J«A6BATIVE CONTINUED BY ^BO BBEVfl^h^

stea,4 i^ Sxjissex.* That spot is dearer to me th#u ibe
rest of th^ three kingdoms? ; and f hav^ j^ometilBes wmir
dered ho>v two njen^ so oppocdte pn Jheir tefppej^ wd
pursuit^, should have imbibed so lopg and Uvely a pro-
peijgity fQr ejach other. Sif Staoier Por^en i^ just AeaA
IJe hai? left bis widow with a mocjerate pension, and t>W0
c^ldrpp^ my nearest relatlpos : the eldest, Ci^arlotte, is
al^pjlt Lpuisa'^ s|ige, and also a mo^t aioiabbs, sensibto
^PWg jcr^,i|ture. I hav^ conceived a romantic idea of
educating and adopting her; as we de^cepd into the rale
pf ye^rs, our infirmitics^ require somje domestic lemale
^ci^ty: C)jarlpjle would be the comfprt of my age, and
I cpu|d rev|rar4 ^f^^ P^^^ and tenderness with a deceiU
fortiin^ A t}ipus^a4 diffipulties oppose the execution of
tbe plan, wh^ph J |iave n^eyer opened but to you ; yet i(
^^Quld l^ lif^ ipipraptipable in Bngland than in Swit^
^^^94- Adiep. { arp wounded, pour some oil mto my
^f^unds : ypf I ^ Ipss unhappy since I have tfarowp my^
p)ift4 upon paper.

Ape ypvi not ania^ed at the French revoh^ion ? Tfiey
))^vf| f]^ power, H^Ul they have the moderation, to estab*
lish a gop4 cpnrtitutipn ? Adieu^ ever yours-

Lacuaime Sept. 9, ^789>

Within an hour aftpr the receptiop pf your last,| 4rew
piy pen for the purpose pf a reply, and my exordiurp r?fl
in thp following words : **| find by experience, \\ia{ i| ig
much more ratiopal, as well as easy, tp ^nsw^r a )pttf r p|
real businesi^ by the retupp of the post.'' '!^\us ipipp|:^(



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NAaBAlIVfi CONTINUED BY LQBD BHfiFPIELD. m

troth is again verified by my oWn example. Affer
writing three pages I was called away by a very rational
motive, and the post departed before I could return to
the conclusion. A second delay was coloured by some
decent pretence. Thi^ee weeks have slipped away, and I
IK)W for6e mysetf on a task, which I sht:)uld haVe
despatched without an effort on the first summons. My
only excuse is, that 1 had little t<x write about EngRkh
business, ai4d that I could \Vrit^ nbthittg definite abottt iriy
Swiss affiiirs. And first, as Aristotle says, of the firsts

1. I Was ftideed in lo# spirit* when I seiit what you
so justly i^tyle my dismal letter ; but I do assure you,thtlt
my owrtfe^ings contributed much more to sink me,' than
wty events or tei^rors relative to the sale of Beriton. Bftit
I again hope and tHist, from yotir consblatory epMfe,
^at, &c &c

2. My Swiss transaction has^ suffered a great altdi'a^
tion-. I shall not become the proprietor of my house aild
garden at Lans&hiie, and I relinquish the phantom with
more regret than yiKJ could eaisfly irftagine. But' I ha^e
beaiidetermitied by a difliculty, which at first appeared of
little moment, but Which has gradually swelled tb dii
alitrmmg magnitude. There is a law in this country, a&
well as in some provinces of Prance, which is styled *^lii
droit de retrait, le retiratit rtgnagere** (Lord Lotigh-
bourough m\Bt have heard of it), by which the relations
of the deceased are entitled to redeem a house or estate
at the price for which it has been sold ; and as the sum
fixed by poor Deyverdun is much below its known'
value, a crowd of coihpetitors are beginning to start;
The be^ opinioiis (for they are divided) are in my favour,



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264 NABBATIVE CONTINUED BY LORD 8HEFFIBLD.

that I am not subject to **le<lroit de retrait," since I tate


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Online LibraryJohn Holroyd Sheffield (Earl of) Edward GibbonThe auto-biography of Edward Gibbon, esq: Illustrated from his letters, with ... → online text (page 19 of 28)