to have the more means to amass books. He formed, Book it, during his own lifetime, a Library which is probably both Tm larger and finer than any like Collection ever made by any !t(I^I", one man, even under the advantageous conditions of LlBEABY royalty. When he had collected his books, he made them liberally accessible. To himself, as we all know, Nature had not given any very conspicuous faculty for turning either books or men to good account; nor had education done much to improve the parts he possessed.

Geoege The Fourth, as it seems, regretted the formation of the new Royal Library by the King his father, because, when he inherited it, he found that its decent maintenance and upkeeping would demand every year a sum of money which he could spend in ways far more to his taste. He had been far better educated than his father had been. And to him Nature had given good abilities; but study was about the last and least likely use to which, at any time, he was inclined to apply them. If he saw any good at all in having, on his accession, the ownership of a large Library, it lay, not in the power it afforded him of benefiting literature, and the labourers in literature, but in the possibility he saw that so fine a collection of books might be made to produce a round sum of money. One of his first thoughts about the matter was, that it would be a good thing to offer his father's beloved Library for sale— to the Emperor of Russia. By what influences that shrewd scheme of turning a penny was diverted will be seen in the sequel.

If George The Third was, in respect to his parts, only slenderly endowed, he had in another respect large gifts. Both his industry and his power of sustained application were uncommon. And his conscientious sense of responsiBoqi u. bility for the use of such abilities as he had was no less Th"» remarkable. Whatever may have been his mistakes in .Kr!ls„,°,l. government, no man ever sat on the British throne who Lib»a»t was more thoroughly honest in his intentions, or more

deeply anxious to show, in the discharge of his duties, his

consciousness of being

'Ever in his great taskmaster's eye.'

That his public acts did not more adequately correspond with his good desires was due, in large measure, to an infelicitous parentage and a narrow education.

As the father of lies sometimes speaks truth, so a mere party manifesto may sometimes give sound advice, though The Edcca- c]0thed in a discreditable garb. When public attention


Oeobqeiii, came first to be attracted to the character of the peculiar DKATH Of influences which began to mould the training of the young p""""' P«nce of Wales soon after his father's death, a Court Wali».. Chamberlain received, one morning, by the post, an unsigned document, which he thought it his duty to place in the hands of the Prime Minister, and he, when he had read it, thought the paper important enough to be laid before the King. This anonymous memorial denounced, as early as in the winter of 1752 (when the Prince was but fourteen years old), the sort of education which George The Third was receiving as being likely to initiate an unfortunate reign.

The paper (which 1 have now before me) is headed: 'A Memorial of several Noblemen and Gentlemen of the first rank' and in the course of it there is an assertion—as being already matter of public notoriety—' that books inculcating the worst maxims of government, and defending the most avowed tyrannies, have been put into the hands of the Prince of Wales,' and such a fact, it is said, ' cannot but affect the memorialists with the most melancholy apprehensions when they find that the men who had the honesty and resolution to complain of such astonishing methods of instruction are driven away from Court, and the men who have dared to teach such doctrines are continued in trust and favour.'*

Making all allowance for partisan feeling and for that tinge of Whig oligarchism which peeps out, as well in the very title, as in the contents of this 'Memorial,' there was obvious truth in the denunciation, and a modicum of true prophecy in the inference. But such a remonstrance had just as little effecj;, in the way of checking undue influences, as it had of wisdom in the form given to it, or in the mode of its presentation at Court.

The Prince's education was not merely imbued with ideas and maxims little likely to conduce towards a prosperous reign. It was intellectually narrow and mean. He grew up, for example, in utter ignorance of many of the great lights of English literature. In respect to all books, save one (that, happily, the greatest of all), he became one of those who, through life, draw from the small cisterns,

* Lord Harcourt resigned his office of Governor to the Prince at the beginning of December, 1752. Scott, then the Prince's tutor, was recommended to his office by Bolingbroke. The Bishop of Peterborough's appointment as Preceptor was made in January, 1753. Among the books complained of, the HUtoire de la Grande Bretagne of Father Orleans, and the Introduction a la vie du Roi Henri IV of another Jesuit, Father Perefixe, are said to have been included. Another and more famous book, which was much in Prince George's hands in his early years, was also obnoxious to the Whigs—Bolingbroke's Idea of a Patriot King. But it would scarcely have been prudent in the malcontents to have put a work which (whatever its faults) ranks, to some extent, among our English classics, in the same expurgatory, or prohibitory, index with the books of Orleans and of Perefixe. If George the Third got some harm out of Lord Bolingbroke's book, he probably obtained also some good. Pure Whiggism—pure but not simple—has never been noted for any discriminating tolerance of spirit. And, in 1752, it was furious at the prospect that the continuance of its long domination was imperilled.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Book Ii, instead of going to the deep wells. He seems to have

Th, been trained to think that the literary glories of his country

"geobgitn' began with the age of Queen Annk.

jn after yearg> George The Third attained to some dim consciousness of his own narrowness of culture. The ply, however, had been too early taken to be got rid of. No training, probably, could have made him a scholar. But his powers of application under wise direction would have opened to him stores of knowledge, from which unwise influences shut him out for life. His faculty of perseverance in study, it must be remembered, was backed by thorough honesty of nature, and by an ability to withstand temptations. When he was entering his nineteenth year, a subpreceptor, who had watched him sedulously, said of him: 'He is a lad of good principle. He has no heroic strain, and no turn for extravagance. He loves peace, and, as yet, has shown very virtuous principles. He has the greatest temptation to gallant with ladies, who lay themselves out in the most shameless manner to draw him on, but to no purpose.' Certainly this last characteristic was neither an inherited virtue nor an ancestral tradition. And it stands in curious contrast with the tendencies of all his brothers and of almost all his sons.

From youth upwards the Prince read much, though he did not read wisely. No sooner was he King than he began to set about the collection of his noble Library. In the choice of a librarian he was not infelicitous, though the selection was in part dictated by a feeling of brotherly kindness. For he chose a very near relative—Mr. afterwards Sir Frederick Augusta Barnard. Mr. Barnard had many qualities which fitted him for his task.

The foundation of the Library was laid by a very fortu

Rotal Li- nate purchase on the Continent. Its increase was largely promoted by a political revolution which ensued shortly Bookii, afterwards; and, in order to turn his large opportunities to Thf. most account, the King's Librarian modestly sought and in- <e!»nuir stantly obtained the best advice which that generation could L,BRAEY afford him—the advice of Samuel Johnson.

In 1762, the fine Library of Joseph Smith, who had been British Consul at Venice during many years, was bought for the King. It cost about ten thousand pounds. Smith had ransacked Italy for choice books, much as his contemporary, Sir William Hamilton, had ransacked that country for choice vases. And he had been not less successful in his quest. In amassing early and choice editions of the classics, and also the curiosities and rarities of fifteenth-century printing, he had been especially lucky. From the same source, but at a later date, George Thk Third also obtained a fine gallery of pictures and a collection of coins and gems. For these he gave twenty thousand pounds. For seven or eight years the shops and Dvttuoikeca warehouses of English booksellers were also sedulously n67; Lady examined, and large purchases were made from them. In uoZ^ga, this labour Johnson often assisted, actively, as well as by fo'"'"'p S9 advice.

When the suppression of the Jesuits in many parts of Europe made the literary treasures which that busy Society had collected—often upon a princely scale and with admirable taste, so far as their limitations permitted—both the King and his librarian were struck with the idea that another fine opportunity opened itself for book-buying on the Continent. It was resolved that Mr. Barnard should travel for the purpose of profiting by it. Before he set out on his journey, he betook himself to Johnson for counsel as to the best way of setting about the task.

Johnson's counsel maybe thus abridged: The litera

« ElőzőTovább »