|Author: Edward/ Milman Gibbon|
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Edward Gibbon came from an upper-middle-class family, the eldest of seven children. Gibbon's six siblings all died in infancy. He enrolled in Magdalen College, University of Oxford at the age of 15, and shortly thereafter became a Catholic. His father then sent him to Lausanne, where he lived with a Calvinist minister who swayed the young Gibbon back to Protestantism. Gibbon spent nearly five years in Switzerland, returning to England in 1758 and choosing to devote his life to studying and writing. In 1764, Gibbon visited Rome. While there, he was inspired to begin his great work, "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire". These five volumes remain both a great work of history and a masterpiece of English prose. In 1774, after settling in London two years earlier, Gibbon was elected to parliament, where he spent 12 years as commissioner of trade and plantations. In spite of the fact that he was often ridiculed for his vanity, lack of height (he stood less than five feet tall), and extreme obesity, Gibbon was respected in English intellectual circles. Gibbon's lesser-known "Memoirs" is one of the most interesting autobiographies of its time.