Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: Boris Johnson, Covid and Herd Immunity.

The Incoronated Microbe, more Minuscule and Venomous than any observ’d or imagin’d by Dr Hooke, blew uncheck’t around the Continents of Earth, assassinating first the unprepar’d Italian, before it increased with aggression its Empire of destruction in America, and performed its Dance of Death amid the squalid Pueblos of Brazil. Though faced with a grim ledger of this Pestilential Harvest, and supplied with urgent warnings by August Physitians, the Prime Minister conferred fatal credibility upon his own Amazing confession, that he loved not Detail. Just as the impatient Rake, tiring of Sport that depends on the exhausting study of Probability, prefers to stake his mighty Estate on the careless throw of a Die or the facile turn of a single card, so Mr Johnson diced amiably and easily with the lives of Albion, allowing Corses like Debts to pile high, as the Fatal Game progress’d. And just as every Rake diverts himself from the run of Loss by the Imagination of Sunlit Gain ahead, so the Prime Minister built his own flimsy Temple of Delusion, a theatrical Folly that rested on but two fragile pillars: first, a notion that the Pestilence would blow over, like the tiresome Tempest that intercepts a walk in the Row, or a day with Guns on the Moor; second, a wicked Theorem that when the Microbe had destroyed such Weak and Expendable wretches of Albion as it could, the Hardy Race of yeomen that remained would be Impervious to future Assault.

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: Boris Johnson as Artist

As he cowered in the precincts of Lord Goldsmith’s opulent villa, the Prime Minister sought to replicate the Depictive endeavours of Mr Churchill, a Masquerade he supplied by investing himself in the rude Smock of a limner, and the plausible arrangement before him of Canvasses and Pigments. However, unlike the persuasive Pictures wrought by his most Pugnatious and effective of Predecessors, who routinely set to rights the ills of the Realm before unfolding his Easel amid the groves of Chartwell or the sands of Antibes, Mr Johnson’s Delineative Enterprise was perceiv’d by the Mob as but the Pictorial equivalent of the Musickal essays of Nero, who, as the Temples and Colonnades of Rome were swiftly reduced by fire to Acrid waste, strumm’d tunelessly upon a Lyre, oblivious to the anguish’t wails of his flame-lick’t Subjects. A crowded Tableau of unrelieved Despair painted itself upon the broad elevation of the Kingdom, whose shores the Principal Limner had so ignominiously fled. Mr Johnson meanwhile prim’d his Canvass ’til it was clean as the Whited Sepulchre, then sought to reproduce upon it the crimson harmonies of a Balearique sunset, with a brush dip’t carelessly in the lifeblood of Albion.   

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: Jacob Rees-Mogg

Though his father was but the editor of a Broadsheet and schooled respectably enough at The Charterhouse, Mr Rees-Mogg was sent to Eton College, where he cultivated such a lofty and disdainful manner of diction and discourse, that soon not even the most languid and elaborately-escutcheon’d Duke might touch him for Flippancy and Insolence. When he pitched himself against the flower of Albion’s Aristocracy, e’en Norfolk and Spencer seem’d but Ploughboys to this polished Paragon. As he sauntered toward his Faction’s yearly gathering in Manchester, with leisurely gait and supercilious mien, he was surprised there by a Mr Hutchins, that daily fought hard for the benefit of Poor men stricken with the Palsy, though he himself laboured beneath the ravages of that cruel Distemper. This enrag’d Invalid, in a most Terrifick and guttural diatribe, berated the Elegant Parliamentarian for the contempt he had oft express’t for the Poor and Diseas’d (a failing many had noted was audibly discordant with the strains of Catholic Piety that daily emanated from Mr Rees-Mogg’s luxurious household). Though Mr Rees-Mogg immediately stammered out a rosary of Mellifluous Platitudes and Patrician Assurances, they served merely to darken and deepen the profound Gulf that prevails twixt Dives and Lazarus both in Albion and the Hereafter, that seem’d vividly delineated for onlookers by the dramatick appearance of Mr Hutchins.

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: Dominic Cummings

Of all that advised the Prime Minister on the Prospectus that led to Albion’s fatal removal from the House of Europe, few were more learnèd or subtle than Mr Cummings. He it was that dressed the ravaged limbs of the Prospectus in deceptive finery, just as the agile Perruquier applies Ribbons and Paint to improve the haggard Front of an exhausted Strumpet. Following his Ejection from the palaces of White-hall, Mr Cummings turned upon his erstwhile Masters, vividly and honestly delineating, for the benefit of the Mob, the Chaos and Catastrophe that reigned in the secret purlieus of State, neglecting not his own Culpability in the resulting enormities. Yet so far from endearing him to the populace he sought to please, the disclosures served to dim even further his once bright Star. There are numerous reasons that urged this outcome, but two that should be especially noted by those who would gain the Confidence of Princes and the Adulation of the Mob: first, his learning undid him, for no Britons love (to lend delicacy to a Vulgar expression) one whose Posterior is too ostentatiously immers’t in the Pierian Spring; second, no men love a Traitor, even such men as vehemently despise the Persons or Enterprise that hath been betray’d. So Mr Cummings must for the while take refuge in the obscurity of his own exclusive Broadsheet, or perforce embark on fresh conspiracies from within the sanctuary afforded by the quiet staircases and quadrangles of the University.   

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: William Shatner

There is in America a Mr Shatner, a renowned Thespian of some ninety summers. More than a half century before, this Veteran of the Playhouse had delivered, to resounding and universal admiration, the role of a Captain Kirk, who patrolled the Heavens in a vessel ingeniously adapted for the undertaking of hazardous voyages toward distant Planets and mighty Constellations. In this fictive Enterprise, the Captain was assisted by a crew of resourceful Lieutenants, their task to avert the numerous catastrophes that scheming Aliens, the scaly denizens of inhospitable Planets, perpetually sought to wreak upon the general Order of the Universe. Having repeatedly vanquish’t these Reptilian predators in the course of innumerable adventures, Mr Shatner withdrew gracefully from the Stage, to a tumultuous cadence of applause from both Pit and Gallery. At length, the gentle twilight of this affable Personator’s years was enlivened by a communication from a Mr Musk, a powerful merchant who had built a conveyance aptly equipped for the exploration of the Caerulean Zone. He offered that Mr Shatner should with no delay ride skyward in the Celestial Contraption, an invitation to which the ever-intrepid Player most readily assented. The hour of elevation was duly set for Mr Shatner to be ceremoniously installed at the Helm of the Rocket. Mr Musk’s Scientific attendants having ignited its massy Engines, the Ancient Thespian would in an instant be propelled with vertiginous speed into the Heavens, there gleefully to marvel at the sudden proximity of the Planets, Stars and Meteors he had in his youth so skilfully delineated within the Terrestrial limitations of the Stage.

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: Police Corruption

Civil Order was maintained in those days by a general assembly of Constables, most of them distinguished by their Valour, and readiness to give even their lives in the cause of general Security. However, just as the Costermonger’s Barrow, glistering with wholesome Hesperidin bounty, might be poisoned by a single blemish’t Globe that lay conceal’d within, so also was the Constabulary contaminated by hidden and scheming Malefactors. These would place a desirable object, be it either a luxurious Pocket-Watch or a negligible Turnip, by stealth within their innocent quarry’s Hovel. Then, in the presence of marveling Witnesses, they would Theatrically discover it, feigning glib astonishment, with such dark Rhetorickal utterances as “What have we here?” or “Thou shalt likely endure no fewer than Ten Years Servitude for this.” Having convey’d their bewildered prisoner to the Gaol, such spurious confessions as they could not obtain by civil Interrogation, they would wrest from him by means of brutish Coercion. At length, the unfortunate ruffian would emerge from the Dungeon, wearing the crimson Stripes and sooty Contusions of undeserved chastisement. If challenged upon this by the concern’d Chaplain or indignant Advocate, the Constables would lightly say, “He hath fallen upon the stairs.” or “He hath by unhappy accident collided with a Door.” Further, such Inveterate Reprobates as had riches within their grasp, were cordially invited to dispense portions to the Constables, in exchange for continuing indemnity from Arrest. This shameful bounty the Constables would solicit not through outright entreaty, but rather through subtle observations, such as “I would winter upon the shores of Spain…” or “The Ruinous cost of Meat is redoubling apace!”

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: Football

To urge with matchless boot the Leathern Sphere is the dream of every stumbling yeoman, for by this means may he win the recognition of a Patron, and rise from the sink of rustick obscurity that Nature and Circumstance hath so cruelly ordained. Let him no longer excavate from icy ground, with crude bucolic curse, the obdurate Turnip, but rather permit him to range upon a nobler campus, declaiming in clarion voice, and with commendable Spartan brevity, the battle cries of the noble Sport: “Strike it hither, Sir!” and “Drive back that man!”  Many an obscure yokel, born to sluggish plough or Stygian mill, was thus elevated, and the perseverance of visionary Managers wrought worthy Corinthians of rude hobbledehoys. In recent times, a want of Guineas for the enterprise was supplied by the luxurious Arab or the opulent Muscovite, who sat by his Tent or Samovar in delighted contemplation of the warring, liveried armies he had purchas’t. Some celebrated players, upon whom the encroaching Winter of life hath enforc’t decorous retirement from the muddy battlefield, sit by the barricades, where for the instruction of the Mob they sustain an uninterrupted discourse on the strategies and accidents of the game, seasoned, during the opportune interlude that occurs twixt the moieties of play, by Philosophical and Political observation. One such was Mr Lineker who, incens’t by the Prime Minister’s attempt to purloin glory for the resurrection in Albion of the noble Sport, cried Foul! upon the Scheming Potentate, to an universal roar of approbation from this affable Veteran’s myriad throng of admirers.

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: Banksy

There lived not far from Bristol a Mr Cunningham, a roving limner that cloak’t his true identity with a nom de guerre that was at once economical and memorable, thereby ensuring that his endeavours became universally familiar, interminably discussed, and of considerable value. Mr Cunningham early resolved to forsake the arduous pursuit of exposure in the Academy, the assistance of Picture Dealers, or the approbation of the Critic, electing instead to create a grand compendium of nefariously executed Frescoes, upon such elevations of public edifices as afforded apt and expansive tabulae rasae for the nocturnal delineation of his numerous Themes. The resulting Pictures, that invariably appeared as if by some miraculous Agency in the first illuminative rays of Aurora, enraged his enemies as much as they delighted his champions. Among those that waged war against him was Mr Gibson, whose faction strove to keep Albion neat, and therefore abhorred what it earnestly trumpeted as the irredeemable desecration wrought by Mr Cunningham. Mr Cunningham, replying to their charge that he was but a common Vandal, asserted that they themselves were no better than Huns, for while they were content to purchase and gaze upon pleasing gravures of Arcadian perfection, they nonetheless promoted unscrupulous Men of Business that were bent on the destruction of those very Temples and Glades.

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on the ethnic minorities in Johnson’s Cabinet

As though he were a Mogul or Ottoman potentate, the Prime Minister kept a menagerie of Jamodars, Moorish and Oriental officials he had elevated to high degree. To him that cried: “Fie! Thou lovest not the poor Baboo or Negroe!”, Mr Johnson would say, “Behold my splendid Jamodars, and eat thy words!” The most ornamental of these was Kwarteng, a strapping Moor, that had been tamed by Provost Anderson at Eton College, and spake Latin and Greek. Next came Zahawi of Baghdad, that knew Chymick and was formerly kept in Lord Archer’s retinue. The Mob marveled at Sunak, an Oriental Croesus who, though wreathed in smiles, and possessing coffers o’erflowing with the treasures of Ind, pluck’t pence from the poor man’s purse at his Master’s bidding. Next came Javid, feared by the sick and halt, for he would force them to pay for Physick, formerly gratis, and have them throw themselves on the mercy of their kinsmen. Most feared of all was Patel, a Kali to her devoted, for like that terrifick Hindoo Deity, she fashion’d pretty necklaces from the Skulls of her adversaries. This menagerie of Jamodars formed a bastion for the cunning Prime Minister, for he knew that in a final reckoning, if the Mob were to storm Durbar Court in Whitehall, it would likely practise retribution upon his Dusky Jamodars, not upon him. Such as were not cut down by Saxon yeoman with stones and staves would face a faction of their own kind, beturbaned Dervishes and Thuggees, armed with scimitars and garrottes, learnèd in the infliction of a thousand-and-one agonising methods of despatch. Meanwhile the Principal Miscreant might slip away disguis’d, to cower in the precincts of White’s club, while fire and destruction reigned in the thoroughfares without.   

Edward Gibbon (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) reflects on Brexit

Europe was, then, a cluster of Principalities and Republicks that lodged together in prosperous amity, in a house they had for built themselves, that had been half a century in the building when Mr Cameron was Prime Minister. Notwithstanding the innumerable virtues of this intricate domestick arrangement, many within the Tory faction thought to strengthen their hold on the Mob by an appeal to its Rustick mistrust of Continentals, and its evergreen hatred of the Dark-Skinned races that roamed at will throughout the Continent. The sarcastic Frenchman, the idle Negroe, the thieving Arab and the lecherous Turk; these were but four of myriad supposed enemies, all united in an infernal project to strangle the prosperity of Albion and dilute its lusty blood with their own abominable liquids. So Britannia was offered a Referendum, where she could chuse either to remain in the hellish Continental bordello in which she was captive, or to leave its portals forever. The Prospectus for Departure was so embellished with lurid fable that simple Rusticks readily fell upon it, so Albion’s apartment in the House of Europe was razed at a stroke, and her sons jubilantly danced amid its ruins, to the melodious huzzahs of Mr Johnson, whom they soon readily embraced as their new Captain. Soon after though, a universal Pestilence struck. Its fell hand, unchecked by a vacillating Government, at once destroyed a legion of Britons and tore away the veil that concealed the fatal emptiness of the cynical Prospectus.