« ElőzőTovább »
ten benefactors, eight came by absolute gift. For the other Book n. two, much less than one half of their value was returned to Book"1' the representatives of the founders. And that, it has been ^""AHD shown, was provided, not by a parliamentary grant, but out Benbfacof the profits of a lottery.
The first important addition to the Library, subsequent to those gifts which have been mentioned in a preceding chapter as nearly contemporaneous with the creation of the Museum, was made by the Will of Dr. Thomas Birch, one B.qumtof of the original Trustees. It comprised a valuable series of B^h,0*" manuscripts, rich in collections on the history, and espe- J^iary' cially the biographical history, of the realm, and a considerable number of printed books of a like character.
Dr. Birch was born in 1705, and died on the ninth of January, 1766. He was one of the many friends of Sir Hans Sloan E, in the later years of Sir Hans' life. When the Museum was in course of organization, Birch acted not only as a zealous Trustee, but he occasionally supplied the place of Dr. Morton as Secretary. His literary productions have real and enduring value, though their value would probably have been greater had their number been less. His activity is sufficiently evidenced by the works which he printed, but can only be measured when the large manuscript collections which he bequeathed are taken into the account. Very few scholars will now be inclined to echo Horace Walpole's inquiry—made when he saw the Catalogue of the Birch MSS.—' Who cares for the correspondence of Dr. Birch?'
Soon after the receipt of the Birch Collection, a choice Bequest Of assemblage of English plays was bequeathed to the Museum Cuhmck, by David Garrick. Its formation had been one of the JTM""7'
favourite relaxations of the great actor. And the study of
the plays gathered by Gar Rick had a large share in moulding the tastes and the literary career of Charles Lamb. Thence he drew the materials of the volume of Specimens which has made the rich stores of the early drama known to thousands of readers who but for it, and for the Collection which enabled him to compile it, could have formed no fair or adequate idea of an important epoch in our literature.
Sir William Musgrave was another early Trustee whose gifts to the Public illustrated the wisdom of Sloane's plan for the government of his Museum and of its parliamentary adoption. Musgrave shared the predilection of Dr. Birch for the study of British biography and archaeology, and he had larger means for amassing its materials. He was descended from a branch of the Musgraves of Edenhall, and was the second son of Sir Richard Musgrave of Hayton Castle, to whom he eventually succeeded. He made large and very curious manuscript collections for the history of portrait-painting in England (now Additional MSS. 63916393), and also on many points of the administrative and political history of the country. He was a zealous Trustee of the British Museum, and in his lifetime made several additions to its stores. On his death, in 1799, all his manuscripts were bequeathed to the Museum, together with a Library of printed British Biography—more complete than anything of its kind theretofore collected.
This last-named Collection extended (if we include a partial and previous gift made in 1790) to nearly two thousand volumes, and it probably embraced much more than twice that number of separate works. For it was rich in those biographical ephemera which are so precious to the historical inquirer, and often so difficult of obtainment, when needed. Nearly at the same period (1786) a valuable Collection of classical authors, in about nine hun- Bookii.
dred volumes, was bequeathed by another worthy Trustee, Book-1'1"
Mr. Thomas Ttbwhitt, distinguished both as a scholar and pTM"**TM
as the Editor of Chaucer. ben"ac
But all the early gifts to the Museum, made after its parliamentary organization, were eclipsed, at the close of the century, by the bequest of the Cracherode Collections. That bequest comprised a very choice library of printed books j a cabinet of coins, medals, and gems; and a series or The of original drawings by the great masters, chosen, like the BODK COLbooks and the coins, with exquisite taste, and, as the "CTI0''' auctioneers say, quite regardless of expense. It also 1799. included a small but precious cabinet of minerals.
The collector of these rarities wras wont to speak of them with great modesty. They are, he would say, mere 'specimen collections.' But to amass them had been the chief pursuit of a quiet and blameless life.
Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode was born in London i<TM*»»
about the year 1730. And he was 'a Londoner' in a sense Opmr. and degree to which, in this railway generation, it would Ckache-' be hard to find a parallel. Among the rich possessions *" which he inherited from Colonel Cracherode, his father— whose fortune had been gathered, or increased, during an active career in remote parts of the world—was an estate in Hertfordshire, on which there grew a certain famous chestnut-tree, the cynosure of all the country-side for its size and antiquity. This tree was never seen by its new owner, save as he saw the poplars of Lombardy, or the cedars of Lebanon—in an etching. In the course of a long life he never reached a greater distance from the metropolis than Oxford. He never mounted a horse. The ordinary extent of his travels, during the prime years of a long life, was from Queen Square, in Westminster, to Clapham. For
Book Ii, almost forty years it was his daily practice to walk from his
Book- house to the shop of Elm Sly, a bookseller in the Strand,
Ivbuc and thence to the still more noted shop of Tom Payne, by
BMEfAc- «the Mews-Gate.' Once a week, he varied the daily walk
by calling on Mudge, a chronometer-maker, to get his watch regulated. His excursions had, indeed, one other and not infrequent variety—dictated by the calls of Christian benevolence—but of these he took care to have no note taken.
Early in life, and probably to meet his father's wish, he received holy orders, but he never accepted any preferment in the Church. He took the restraints of the clerical profession, without any of its emoluments. His classical attainments were considerable, but the sole publication of a long life of leisure was a university prize poem, printed in the Carmina Quadragcshnalia of 1748. The only early tribulation of a life of idyllic peacefulness was a dread that he might possibly be called upon, at a coronation, to appear in public as the King's cupbearer—his manor of Great Wymondley being held by a tenure of grand-serjeantry in that onerous employment. Its one later tinge of bitterness lay in the dread of a French invasion. These may seem small sorrows, to men who have had a full share in the stress and anguish of the battle of life. But the weight of a burden is no measure of the pain it may inflict. Mr. Cracherode looked to his possible cupbearership, with apprehension just as acute as that with which Cowper contemplated the awful task of reading in public the Journals of the House of Lords. And the sleepless nights which long afterwards were brought to Cracherode by the horrors of the French revolutionary war were caused less by personal fears than by the dread of public calamities, more terrible than death. During one year of the devastations on the other side of the Channel, Book ir, chronicled by our daily papers, Mr. Cracherode was Bookthought by his friends to have 'aged' full ten years in his p"TM*"" aspect. BENt"°
The one active and incessant pursuit of this noiseless career was the gathering together of the most choice books, the finest coins and gems, the most exquisite drawings and prints, which money could buy, without the toils of travel. Our Collector's liberality of purse enabled him to profit, at his ease, by the truth expressed in one of the wise maxims of John Selden :—' The giving a dealer his price hath this advantage;—he that will do so shall have the refusal of whatsoever comes to the dealer's hand, and so by that means get many things which otherwise he never should have seen.' The enjoyment—almost a century ago—of six hundred pounds a year in land, and of nearly one hundred thousand pounds invested in the 'sweet simplicity' of the three per cents., enabled Mr. Cracherode to outbid a good many competitors. His natural wish that what he had so eagerly gathered should not be scattered to the four winds on the instant he was carried to his grave, and also the public spirit which dictated the choice of a national repository as the permanent abode of his Collections, has already made that long course of daily visits to the London dealers in books, coins, and drawings, fruitful of good to hundreds of poorer students and toilers, during more than two generations. From stores such as Mr. Cracherode'8— when so preserved—many a useful labourer gets part of his best equipment for the tasks of his life. He, too, would enjoy a visit to the 'Paynes' and the 'Elmslys' of the day as keenly as any book-lover that ever lived, but is too often, perhaps, obliged to content himself with an outside, glance at the windows. Public libraries put him practi