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plorations. Many of the great and wealthy nobles gave Book Ii, generous furtherance to them, and were equally ready to Early make available for scientific study the new specimens which ^Bmmi the ships brought home. In this way, for example, the Ml3IlM Marquess of Rockingham gave to the Museum a curious collection of reptiles gathered in Surinam.
In the same manner was furnished that minor, but very popular and instructive, collection illustrating the rude arts and modes of life of the newly explored countries, which some yet among us can remember as occupying the 'South Sea Room' of the old house. In the course of years it came to be eclipsed by much better collections of the same kind elsewhere, and so to wear a meagre and somewhat obsolete aspect. But it had rendered good service in its day, and was the germ of what will become, it may be hoped, in due time, an ethnological collection worthy of a seafaring people.
As regards the Natural History Collections, the growth Epochs n« of the Museum may be said to have been mainly dependent Tmtbk° on the Voyages of Discovery for more than forty years. f,"Tl0KRV' That source of improvement seems to mark, distinctively, Coi"cthe first epoch in the history of those collections. Then came a second epoch, marked by some approach to systematic improvement, in all branches, by means of the purchase of entire private collections as opportunity offered. A third period may be dated from the acquisition of the botanical and other gatherings of Sir Joseph Banks in 1827. Sir Joseph's splendid gift was soon followed by so many other gifts—sometimes as donations, more frequently as bequests—that for many years the liberality of benefactors quite eclipsed the liberality of Parliament. Only of late years can it be said that the public support of the Natural History Collections has been worthy, either of the Nation or of their
own intrinsic importance to it. By degrees, statesmen have become convinced that such collections are much more than the implements of a knot of professed naturalists, and the toys of the public at large. Slowly, but surely, the economic and commercial value of a great museum of natural history, as well as its educational value, have come saliently into view. And a wise enlargement of the contributions from national funds has had the excellent result of stimulating, instead of checking, the benefactions of individuals.
Some of the particular steps by which so conspicuous an improvement has been gradually brought about will claim our notice hereafter, in their due order.
If, for a long series of years, the degree of liberality with which these varied collections were shown to the Public at large scarcely accorded, either with their origin, or with the purpose for which they had been avowedly combined, it should be borne in mind that 'the Public' of 1759 was a very different body from the Public of a century later. It is only by degrees that indiscriminate admission to museums has come to be either very useful or quite feasible. There was a good deal of warrant in 1759 for the opinion recorded by one of the Trustees when the Rules were first under Ms Addit, discussion. 'A general liberty,' said Dr. John Ward,
fll^O f 61
the eminent Gresham Professor, 'to ordinary people of all ranks and denominations, is noWo be kept within bounds. Many irregularities will be committed that cannot be prevented by a few librarians who will soon be insulted by such people [as commit abuses], if they offer to control or contradict them.' But, after all, the inadequate strength of the staff was the main cause of such of the restrictions as were chiefly complained of.
The original regulations, with but small change, re- Bookii, mained in force for about forty-five years. How they Eablt
worked will be best and most briefly shown by citing the Th"b"tiwi experiences of two or three notable visitors, at various MusKD"periods, during the last century.
In 1765, Peter John Grosley, an accomplished and keeneyed Frenchman, familiar with the Museums of Italy as well as with those of his own country, visited the new Museum, and recorded his impressions of it. With the building he was charmed. He had already seen many parts of England, but nowhere any house that he thought worthy to be compared with Montagu House. He calls it 'the largest, the most stately, the best arranged, and most richly decorated' structure of its kind in all England. He made repeated visits. What chiefly arrested his attention in the Natural History rooms were the beauty of the papillonacea —comprising, he thought, 'all that either the old world or the new can supply in this kind'—and the strangeness of some mineral specimens brought from the Giant's Causeway in Ireland. The Printed Books he thought to be 'the weakest part of this vast collection.' In one of the principal rooms, ' I saw,' he continues, 'not without astonishment, a very fine bust of Oliver Cromwell, occupying a distinguished place!' He praises the courtesy with which Drs. Maty and Morton discharged, by turns, the duty of exhibition. 'They show,' he says, 'the most obliging readiness to explain things to the visitor, but,' he adds, with obvious truth, 'their very courtesy is wont to make a stranger content himself with hasty and unsatisfactory glances, that he may not trespass on their politeness.' And then he makes a wise practical suggestion, which was carried into effect, almost half a century afterwards.
'In order really to carry out the intentions of Parlia
Gkoslky's Account or Themuskum In 1765.
Book ii, ment,' writes Grosley, in 1765, ' it is to be wished that the Bam.i Public should be admitted more liberally, and more easily, "TitHmsH placing a warder in every room, to be continually Mus.im. present during the public hours.'
Ten years afterwards, the difficulty on this score had so increased that a notification to the following effect was circulated: * British Museum, 9th August, 1776. The Applicants of the middle of April are not yet satisfied. Ms Addit Persons applying are requested to send weekly to the io,565,fou*. porter to know how near they are upon the List.' c'pTMoEiTz ^n 1^82, the plan had so far improved that instead of i»i782. waiting from April until August, a visitor could usually get admission within a fortnight or so after applying for a ticket. We have an intelligent and amusing account of a visit then made. This time the narrator is a German,— Charles MoafTZ, of Berlin. 'In general,' writes Moritz, 'you must give in your name a fortnight before you can be admitted. But, by the kindness of Mr. Woide '—a countryman of the traveller, and, at that time, an AssistantLibrarian in the Museum,—' I got admission earlier
Yet, after all, I am sorry to say that it was the room, the glass-cases, the shelves, .... which I saw; not the Museum itself, so rapidly were we hurried on through the departments. The company who saw it when I did, and in like manner, was variously composed. They were of all sorts, and some, as I believe, of the very lowest classes of the people of both sexes, for, as it is, the property of the Nation, every one has the same 'right'—I use the term of Wentm. the country—to see it that another has. T had Mr. WenAccount Deborn's book in my pocket, and it, at least, enabled me to take more particular notice of some of the principal things.'
The book thus referred to by Moritz is the German
original of that account of English society and institutions Booeii, which Wendeborn himself translated, a few years after- S,1' wards, into English, and published at London, under the mTM"TM title of A View of England. MD8I,)M
Its author had settled in London as the Minister of a German Congregation. He was himself a studious frequenter of the Museum, and says of it: 'The whole is costly, worth seeing, and honourable to the Nation; when taken altogether it has not its equal. When considered in its separate branches, almost each of them singly may be surpassed by some other collection even in England itself.' Hut the only collection which he specifies as, in this sense, superior, are the Hunterian Museum, and that which had been formed by Sir Ashton Levrr, and which, when the View of England was written, belonged to Mr. Parkinson. Of the Museum Library, Wendeborn says, 'though a numerous and valuable collection, it is yet, in many re- wendeborn,
. 4 View of
spects, very deficient, and as to its use, much cir- B«gumd, cumscribed.'
When the German visitor of 1782 pulled Mr. WenDeborn's book from his pocket, as he was hurried through the Museum, the action attracted the attention of the other visitors. The more intelligent of them pressed round him to see if the book could be made to yield any information for their behoof also. And the stranger gratified their curiosity by translating a passage or two in explanation of the objects they were passing. Then came an exquisite bit of sub-officialism.
'The gentleman who conducted us,' observes Moritz, 'took little pains to conceal the contempt which he felt for my communications when he found it was only a German description of the British Museum which I had.' 'So rapid a passage,' he continues, 'through a vast suite of rooms,