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"The King made this Ordinance :—That there should be a mission of three of the brethren of Solomon's House, whose errand was only to give us knowledge of the affairs and state of those countries to which they were designed, and especially of the Sciences .... and Inventions of all the World; and withal to bring us books, instruments, and patterns in every kind
"We have also precious stones, of all kinds; many of
them of great beauty Also, store of fossils
But we do hate all impostures and lies, insomuch as we have severally forbidden it to all our fellows, under pain of ignominy or fines, that they do not show any natural work or thing adorned or swelling, but only pure as it is, without affectation of showing marvels
"We have also those who take care to consider of the former labours and Collections, and out of them to direct new explorations . . . more penetrating into Nature than
the former Upon every invention of value we erect
a statue to the inventor, and give him a liberal and honourable reward.
"We have hymns and services, which we say daily, of laud and thanks to God for His marvellous works, and forms of prayer imploring His blessing for the illumination of our labours."—Bacon, '■New Atlantis, a Work unfinished.' ￼
'A Museum of Nature does not aim, like one of Art, merely to charm the eye and gratify the sense of beauty and of grace.
1 As the purpose of a Museum of Natural History is to , . . . impart and diffuse that knowledge which hegcta the right spirit in which all Nature Bhould be viewed, there ought to be no partiality for any particular class, merely on account of the quality which catches and pleases the passing gaze. Such a Museum should subserve the instruction of a People; and should also afford objects of study and comparison to professed Naturalists, so as to serve as an instrument in the progress of Science.'— Kichard Owen, On a National Museum of
Natural History, pp, 10; 11; 115.
Househunting.—The Removal of the Shane Museum from Chelsea.—Montagu House, and its History. — The Early Trustees and Officers.—The Museum Regulations. —Early Helpers in the Foundation and Increase of the British Museum.—Epochs in the Growth of the Natural History Collections.—Experiences of Inquiring Visitors in the years 1765—1784.
Thk practical good sense which had always been a Bookit, marked characteristic in the life of Sir Hans SloanE is Early seen just as plainly in those clauses of his Will by which """"twii he leaves much latitude, in respect of means and agencies, MuTM«to the discretion of his Executors and Trustees. It is seen, for example, when, after reciting some views of his own as to the methods by which his Museum should be maintained
for public use, he adds the proviso—' in such manner as they (the Trustees) shall think most likely to answer the public benefit by me intended.' He had a love for the old Manor House at Chelsea, and contemplated, as it seems, with some special complacency, the maintenance there of the Collections which had added so largely to the pleasures of his own fruitful life. But he was careful not to tie down his Trustees to the continuance of the Museum at Chelsea, as a condition of his bounty. They were at liberty to assent to its removal, should the balance of public advantage seem to them to point towards removal.
Chelsea was in that day a quiet suburban village, distant from the heart of London. As the site of a Museum it had many advantages, but it was, comparatively and to the mass of visitors and students, a long way off. The Trustees assented to a generally expressed opinion that whilst the new institution ought not to be placed in any of the highways of traffic, it ought to be nearer to them than it would be, if continued in its then abode.
One of the first places offered for their choice was the old Buckingham House (now the royal palace). It was already a large and handsome structure. The charm of its position, at that time, was not unduly boasted of in the golden letters of the inscription conspicuous upon its entablature—
'Sic siti Icetantur lares' Its prospects, as described not very long before by the late ducal owner, 'presented to view at once a vast town, a palace, and a cathedral, on one side; and, on the other sides, two parks, and a great part of Surrey.' Its fine gardens ended in 'a little wilderness, full of blackbirds and nightingales.' Yet it was close to the Court end of the town. But the price was thirty thousand pounds.
Another offer was that of Montagu House at Blooms- Book Ii,
bury. Less charmingly placed, and architecturally less Eist'
striking in appearance than was its rival, both its situation Thtbetohi
and its plan were better fitted for the purposes of a public Mosi!UM
Museum. It stood, it is true, on the extreme verge of the Moht^d
° HOUSK AND
London of that day. Northward, there was nothing Its History between it and the distant village of Highgate, save an expanse of fields and hedgerows. And for a long distance, both to the east and the west, no part of London had yet spread beyond it, except an outlying hospital or two. But there were already indications that the town would extend in that northerly direction, more quickly than in almost any other. The house had seven and-a-half acres of garden and shrubberies; and its price was but ten thousand, two hundred and fifty pounds.
Montagu House had been built about sixty years before for Ralph Montagu, first Duke of Montagu. A spacious court separated the house from Great Russell Street, towards which it presented to view only a screen of pannelled brickwork, having a massive gateway and cupola in the centre, and turreted wings, masking the domestic offices, at either end. The house itself was rather stately than beautiful, but its chief rooms and its grand staircase were elaborately painted by the best French artists of the day. And the appendant offices were more than usually extensive.
It stood on the site of a structure of much greater architectural pretensions, erected for the same owner, only twelve years before, from the designs of Robert Hooke That first Montagu House had been burned to the ground.
The offer of Montagu House was accepted by the Trustees and approved by the Government. It was found