Oldalképek
PDF

Book ii, in little more than one hour of time, with opportunity to Early cast but one poor longing look of astonishment on ".Tn'ms'i an the vast treasures of nature, antiquity, and literaMikkui.. ^ure> jn ^e examination of which one might profitably spend years, confuses, stuns, and overpowers the visitor.'

Two years later, we have a similar account of the experiences of an inquisitive Englishman, and of one who is William much more outspoken in his complaint. William Hctton,

Iu'tton's ....

Visit In the historian of Birmingham, came to London in December, 1 1784. * I was unwilling to quit it,' he writes, 'without seeing what I had, many years, wished to see. But how to accomplish it was the question. I had not one relative

in that vast metropolis to direct me By good

fortune, I stumbled upon a person possessing a ticket for the next day, which he valued less than two shillings. We struck a bargain in a moment and were both pleased. . . . I was not likely to forget Tuesday, December 7th, at eleven.' Iiutton, shrewd as he was, did not suspect the real nature of his 'bargain.' He had met with a professional dealer in Museum tickets; one of several who, on a humbler scale, followed in the steps of Peter Lehetjp, but were lucky enough not to excite the anger of the House of Commons.

He was taken through the rooms in company with about ten other persons, at a very rapid rate. He asked their conductor for some information about the curiosities. The reply, he says, so humbled him that he could not utter another word. 'The company seemed influenced. They made haste and were silent. No voice was heard but in whispers. If a man spends two minutes in a room, in which a thousand things demand his attention, he cannot bestow on them a glance apiece It grieved me to think how much I lost for want of a little information. In B««

about thirty minutes we finished our silent journey through Eablt

the princely mansion, which would well have taken thirty "^lium',,

days I had laid more stress on the British Mu- Mumvu

seum, than on anything else which I should see in London. It was the only sight which disgusted me Government purchased this rare collection at a vast expense, and iIuU„„ exhibits it as a national honour. . . . How far it answers 'UoyM»

London,

the end proposed this account will testify.' Pp Iw-"6

Better days were at hand. But it was not until 1805 that the rules of admission were even so far effectively revised as to abolish the traffic in tickets. Nor was any 'Synopsis' of the contents of the Museum provided until 1808. In that year admission tickets were abolished wholly.

Straitened means of maintenance have, at all times, had far more to do with any inadequate provision for public usefulness of which (in days long past) there may have been well-grounded cause of complaint, than had neglect or oversight on the part of any officer.

The officers, too, were, for a very long period after the establishment of the Museum, engaged, and remunerated, only for an attendance, in rotation, for two hours daily, on alternate days. A largely increased provision by Parliament was the essential condition of any large increase in the accessibility of the institution.

As early as in 177G the necessary expenditure in salaries and wages alone (at a very low scale of payment), exceeded the annual income (£900) accruing from the original endowment fund. After Parliament had made an additional provision—first introduced in a clause of what was then Bookii, called a 'hotch-potch Act'—averaging £1000 yearly, the Early' total annual income was still but £2448, including the "H'^"T°'H yearly three hundred pounds accruing from the 'Edwards Mcuum. Fund,' and the £248, paid, under the grant of George The Second, as the net yearly salary of the 'King's Librarian.' For a considerable period, the sums expended in purchases—for all the departments collectively —had not amounted, in any one year, to one hundred pounds.

On the decease of the first Principal Librarian, Dr. ^*caGowin Knight, in 1772, Dr. Matthew Maty was appointed Mvmiisw to that office. He was born at, or in the neighbourhood of Utrecht, in 1718, and was educated in the University of Leyden, where he took his degrees in 1740, the subject of his inaugural dissertation, for that of M.A. and Doctor of Philosophy, being 'custom/ and its wide results and influence social and political. His essay was published (under the title Dissertatio philosophica inauguralis de Usu,) in 1740. For the degree of Doctor in Medicine, he treated of the effects of habit and custom upon the human frame {De Consuetudinis efficacia in corpus humanum). This medical dissertation was also published at Leyden, in the usual form, in the same year. Both essays showed much ability, along with many faults and crudities. Some of these became matters of conversation and correspondence between the author and his friends. The subject was less hacknied than that of the majority of academical essays, and Maty was induced to reconsider it. He republished the result of his thoughts, in a greatly improved form, in the following year at Utrecht, and, to gain a wider audience, wrote in French. The Essai sur V Usage attracted much attention, and served to pave the way for the establishment by its author, eight years afterwards, of the periodical entitled, Bookii, Journal Britannique, as editor of which he is now best E*"rplt remembered. He came to England in 1741. practised as H"TM"("

° 1 The British

a physician, attained considerable reputation, and distin- Musmjh. guished himself more especially by following in the path of Sir Hans Sloane, and others, as an earnest supporter of the practice of inoculation. In this field he was able to render good service, both by his professional influence and by his pen. In the sharp controversies which soon, and for a time, impeded the new practice, he took a large share, and his publications on the subject are distinguished from many others by their union of moderation of tone with vigour of advocacy.

Maty's predilections, however, pointed to a literary rather than to a medical career. He had early taken that ply, and it was not easily effaced, Within six years (1750— 1750) he published eighteen volumes of the Journal Britannique—edited in London but printed at the Hague— in the toils of which he was, according to Gibbon, almost unaided. Gibbon, too, bears testimony to the amiability of the man, as well as to the industry of the writer. His own first and youthful achievement in literature had Maty's encouragement and active aid. When the Essai sur 1'Etude dela Litterature was, after much filing and polishing, given to the Public, a preliminary letter from Maty's pen accompanied it, and by him the essay was carried through "J the press. p w.

When he succeeded Dr. Gowin Knight, as Principal Librarian in 1772, his health was already failing. He occupied the post during less than four years. To the last, his pen was busily employed. He was a contributor to several foreign journals, as well as to the Philosophical. Transactions, some volumes of which he edited, or assisted Early History Of The British

Book Ii, to edit, in his capacity as one of the Secretaries of the '! 1' Royal Society, to which office he had been appointed in 1765. Among his minor literary publications are a life of MuazuM. Boerhaave, in French, and one of Dr. Richard Mead, in English. At the time of his death he was working on the Life of Lord Chesierfield^ftevwards prefixed to the collective edition of the Earl's Miscellaneous Works. Dr. Maty died in 177G, and was succeeded in his Librariauship by his colleague, Dr. Charles Morton, who had had, from the beginning, the charge of the department of Manuscripts, and had also acted as Secretary to the Trustees. Noticioi- ])r< Morton was a native of Westmoreland, and was

Dr. Charles'

Morton, born in 1716. Until the year 1750 he had practised as a Principal physician at Kendal. In 1751 he became a Licentiate of Lierarian ^e Q0]]ege 0f Physicians, and in the following year a Fellow of the Royal Society. His service in the British Museum lasted from 1756 to 1799. There are several testimonies to the courtesy with which he treated such visitors and students as came under his personal notice, but his long term of superior office was certainly not marked by any striking improvement in the public economy of the Museum. And how much room for improvement existed there the reader has seen. Dr. Morton, like his predecessor, was one of the Secretaries of the Royal Society. He filled that office from the year 1760 to 1774. He contributed several papers to the Philosophical Transactions, as well on antiquarian subjects as on topics of physical science, and he was the first editor of Bulstrode Whitelocke's remarkable narrative of his embassy to Sweden during the Protectorate. Morton's writings are not remarkable either for vigour or for originality, but, on more topics than one, they had the useful result of setting abler men awork. He was three times married: (1) to

« ElőzőTovább »