“After laying down my pen I took several turns in a berceau, or covered walk of acacias, which commands a prospect of the country, the lake, and the mountains. The air was temperate, the sky was serene, the silver orb of the moon was reflected from the waters, and all nature was silent. I will not dissemble the first emotions of joy on recovery of my freedom, and, perhaps, the establishment of my fame. But my pride was soon humbled, and a sober melancholy was spread over my mind, by the idea that I had taken an everlasting leave of an old and agreeable companion…”
– Edward Gibbon, in 1787, after writing the concluding lines of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
The book had been almost 15 years in the making — 6 volumes, 1.5 million words, 8,000 footnotes, 13 centuries and 3 continents discussed — and Gibbon took a moment to “commemorate the hour of my final deliverance.” This came just before midnight, in the small summer-house in his garden in Lausanne.