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life (unofficial as they were), and the powerful influence Jj^'J; which he exerted upon statesmen much abler than himself, 1TM",ucwill be found, it is hoped, to give not a little of historical interest to his biography, quite additional to that which belongs to his pursuits as a studious Collector, and as the most famous of all the literary antiquaries who occur throughout our English story.
To the conspicuous merits which belong to Sir Robert Cotton as a politician of no mean acumen, and as,—in the event,—the real Founder of the British Museum, are added the still higher distinctions of an eminently generous spirit and a faithful heart. His openhandedness in giving was constant and princely. His firmness in friendship is testified by the fact that although (in a certain point of view) he was the courtier both of James The First and of Charles The First, he nevertheless stood persistently and unflinchingly by the side of Eliot, and of the men who worked with Eliot, in the period of their deepest court disgrace. By the best of the Parliamentarian leaders he was both reverenced and loved. And he reciprocated their feeling.
My personal pleasure in the task of writing the life of R]!CI.NT such a man as he was is much enhanced by a strong *n"TM°" conviction that certain recent attacks upon his memory Cottons are based upon fallacious evidence, shallow presumptions, and hasty judgments. It is my hope to be able to shew to the Reader, conclusively, that Cotton was worthy of the cordial regard and the high esteem in which he was uniformly held by men who stood free of all bias from political and party connexion—such, for example, as William Camden, who spoke of him, almost with dying lips, as 'the dearest of all my friends,'—as well as by those great Parliamentarian leaders whose estimate of him may, perhaps, be thought—by hasty readers—to rest partly, if
c\,Hpi n0* raan,ly« on the eminent political service which he was Ikteodic able to render them.
When these pages shall come from the Press just three hundred years will have elapsed since Sir Robert Cotton's birth. Our English proto-collector was born in the year 1570. The year 1870 will, in all probability, witness the definite solution of a knotty problem as to the future of the great institution of which he was the primary and central founder.
Cotton may be regarded as the English 'proto-collector,' in a point of view other than that which concerns the British Museum. No Library in the United Kingdom can, I think, shew an integral' Collection/ still extant, the formation of which—as a Collection—can be traced to an earlier date than that of the collection of the Cottonian Manuscripts.
Whether the British Museum shall continue to be the great national repository for Science, as well as for Literature and Antiquities, is a question which is fast ripening for decision; and it is one which ought to be interesting to all Britons. It is also, and very eminently, one of those questions of which it is literally—and not sarcastically—to be affirmed that 'there is much to be said on both sides.'
Personally I have a very strong conviction on that subject. But in treating of it—in the 'Postscript' which closes the present volume—it has been my single and earnest aim to state, with the utmost impartiality I am able to attain, the leading arguments for maintaining the Museum in its full integrity; and also the leading arguments for severing the great Natural History Collections from the rapidly growing Libraries and from the vast Gal- Booki, leries of marbles, bronzes, pottery, medals, and prints. It Introducis the business of writers to state and marshal the evidence. TION' It is the business of Parliament to pronounce the judgment.
The main epochs in the History of the British Museum afford what may be looked upon almost as a ' table of contents' to the present volume. And they may be brought under the Reader's eye in a way which will much facilitate the correct apprehension of the author's plan. I exhibit them thus:—
Chronological List Of The Dates, Founders, And Of Which The BRITISH MUSEUM
Class I—Foundation Collections,
I. Cottonian Manuscripts, Coins, Medals, Collectedhy Sir Robert Cotton, Baronet (born in the year Nation by Sir John Cotton in 1700. Augmented during
Arthur Agarde (1615), William Camden (1623),
Lambarde (1601), and others; and, after his death, by the Sir John Cotton, his descendants; and also by the Printed Library given in 1738.
II. Old ' Royal Li
Re-founded, or restored, by Henry, Prince of Wales
1612). [See Class II, § 1.]
Collected by Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel
England; K.G. (Born in 1586; succeeded as XXIIIrd Earl of 1646.) [See Class II, $ 33.]
IV. Thomason Tracts (Printed and Manuscript).
Collected by Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford (bom
merited by incorporation, at various times, of the Collections,
of the Collections of Sir Humphrey Gilbert (died Rogers (1590), John Stowe (1605), Sir Henry nard (1633), Sir Henry Spelman (1641), Sir James Ware (1666), William Bancroft, Archbishop
gUier, Chancellor of France (1696), John Bagford (1716);
VI. 'Sloane Museum' Of Natural History And Of
Of Manuscripts And Printed Collected by William Courten [known during part of his 1642; died 26 March, 1702); continued by Sir Hans died 11 January, 1752); bequeathed, by the Continuator, to the payment to his executors, by authority of Parliament, of the his Collections—to use the words of his last Will,—being things 'tion of the Glory of God, the Confutation of Atheism and its 'ment of the Arts and Sciences, and benefit of Mankind, may 'and that chiefly in or about the City of London, where they 'be of most use.' .... [See Book I, c. 6.]
Character, Of The Component Collections, Out Has Been Formed Or Enlarged:
And Other Antiquities.
1570; died 6 May, 1631). Given to the
the Collector's lifetime by the gifts of
John Dee (1608), William
acquisitions of Sir Thomas Cotton and
of Major Arthur Edwards,
(bora in 1594; died 6 November, Manuscripts.
and Of Norfolk; Earl Marshal of Arundel in 1603; died 4 October,
[See Class II, § 3.]
in 1661; died 21 May, 1724). Aug. severally, or of considerable portions
1584), JohnFoxe (i58l),Daniel Savile (1622), Sampson LenSymonds D'Ewes (1650), Sir
of Canterbury (1693), Peter Seand others. [See Book I, c 5.]
Antiquities; And Library
life as ' William Charleton'j (born in Sloane, Baronet (born in 1660; British Nation,—conditionally on the sum of £20,000,—in order that those 'tending many ways to the Manifestaconsequences, the Use and Improveremain together and not be separated, may by the great confluence of people
Incorporated by the Act (a.d. 1753) 26 Geo. II, c. 22, entitled, 'An Act for the Purchase of the Museum or Collection of Sir Hans Sloane and of the Harleian Collection of MSS.; and for providing one General Repository . .for the said Collections and for the Cottonian Library and additions thereto;
Opened, for Public Use, on Monday the 15th January, 1759; and subsequently AugMented, from time to time, by numerous additional Collections; and, More ParticuLarly, by the following