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Book in, Of this he would speak very modestly in after-days,
HinoBi saying: 'I have worked on Domesday for years; but only
Mutmuic m making an opening into the mine. Other men will
UndueSie j^yg yej. (-q jjj.m„ out the metal.' For the second Record
H. Ellis. ....
Commission he re-edited his Introduction and considerablyimproved it. This was done in 1832 ; and, to say the least, it brought some very good ore to the surface. When both these Commissions had given way to the better organization recently framed by Lord Romilly, he edited, for the series of Chronicles and Memorials of Great Britain, the Latin Chronicle of John of Oxenedes, from a MS. belonging to Sir Robert Cotton's Library. When Oxenedes was published, just sixty years had passed from the publication of Sir Henry's first Record labour, undertaken at the instance of Lord Colchester.
In the interval, he had had a great opportunity, the first glimpse of which needs must have dilated the heart of so genuine a lover of antiquity. The publication of an improved edition of the Monasticon Anglicanum of Dods Worth and Dugdale ought to have made a new epoch in British archaeology. But the opportunity was lost. In those days, there was no encouragement for such labours at the Treasury; no enlightened promoter of them at the Rolls House". The control of the new Monasticon passed into the hands of mere tradesmen. Neither of Mr. Ellis's co-editors ever buckled to the work. Ellis himself became simply the servant of the associated publishers, who had no aim whatever beyond turning a golden penny out of the traditional prestige of Sir William Diigdale's name, and out of the standing advertisement that the Monasticon was indubitably one of those books ' which no gentleman's library ought to be without.' Heaps of crude, untranslated, and unelucidated information were thrust into the book, against the editor's own clear conviction of his duty, and in spite of his Bookiii, remonstrance. 'We must retrench,' was the one answer ^ to all editorial recommendations of real improvement. And OTTHI!
1 _ Ml'SIUM
meanwhile the publishers were actually netting fair profits Under sm from a long list of confiding subscribers. What might L"°' well have been a 'broadstone of honour' to English literature became its glaring disgrace.* No one would more gladly have striven for a better result—had the power lain with him—than would Sir Henry Ellis. As to his nominal co-editors, they did almost nothing, from first to last.
To far better result did Ellis labour upon his successive editions of Hall, Hardyng, Fabyan, and Polydore Vergil, among our chroniclers, and of Brand's Observations on Popular Antiquities, of Dugdale's History of Saint Paul's Cathedral, and of Nobden's Essex, among the standard illustrations of our archaeology and topography. But his most enduring contribution to historical literature is, beyond doubt, his Original Letters, illustrative of English History, the publication of which began in 1824, and was completed in 1846. That work alone would suffice to keep his name in honourable memory for a long time to come.
* I do not make this statement without ample warrant. When preparing, under Lord Romilly's direction, my humble contribution of the lost Liber de Hyda to the series of Chronicles and Memorials, I had competent occasion to test the Monasticon of 1813-1824, and found it to teem with errors and oversights in that part of it which I had then to do with. I had had other occasions to study it somewhat closely twenty years before, and with like result. At the interval of twenty years, one could hardly stumble twice upon exceptionally ill-edited portions of such a book. For the new 'Dugdale,' thus truthfully characterised, subscribers paid a hundred and thirty pounds for small paper, two hundred and sixty pounds for large paper, copies; and the number of subscribers was considerable. So much for the 'We must retrench' of the publishers.
Boo* in, At the British Museum he had a considerable advantage
Hi!to»t over his predecessor in the Principal Librarianship. He
or THE Muslim Under Six H. Ellis.
enjoyed the assistance, almost from the first, of an abler staff, in more than one of the departments, than Mr. Planta had commanded during the earlier years of his administration. And an improved order of service had been established before Mr. Ellis's rule began. In this
Labours or Sirh. Ellis At THE
MvwtuM. way appliances lay already under his hand which facilitated the work of progress, when—more especially—a strong demaud for improvement came from without, as well as from the action of the Trustees themselves within.
At that date the Department of Printed Books was under the charge of the Rev. Henry Hervey Baber (the eminent THKTiMEor editor of the 'Alexandrian MS.' of the Septuagint). He or Mr. was assisted by Mr. Henry Francis Cary, the translator of P"MIA- Dante, and also by Mr. Walter, who had been one of the Librarians of King George The Third, and who, in 1831, was succeeded by Mr. Antonio Panizzi. In the Department of MSS. Mr. Ellis's Assistant-Keeper, the Rev. Josiah Forshall, had succeeded to the charge, and the new Keeper had the able assistance of Sir Frederick Madden, whose labours for the improvement of his department are well known to scholars. The Antiquities were confided to Mr. Edward Hawkins; the various Natural History Collections to Messrs. Konig and Children. The Botanical Department was, as I have shown at the close of the preceding Book, just about to be re-organized (almost to be created) by the transfer of the Collections of Sir Joseph Banks, and with them of the services of their distinguished Keeper. Taken altogether, such a staff as this was of threefold efficiency to that with which Mr. Planta had started at the beginning of the century.
Mr. Ellis enjoyed an additional advantage from the This CandiDature or
great familiarity with the whole service of the Museum Bookiii, which he had acquired during his labours as Secretary Hibto»i from the year 1814. The secretarial duty had been com- M""um bined with the functions of keepership during thirteen ^^j5TM years. Great punctuality, a conspicuous faculty for method and memory, and very courteous manners, were qualifications which are not always, or necessarily, found in union with conspicuous industry. In him they were combined. Nevertheless, he narrowly escaped losing the merited reward of long and assiduous labours. For he had a formidable competitor.
At this time, a most accomplished scholar, who deservedly possessed large influence, both social and political, had obtained the virtual promise of almost the highest per- 0TM. sonage in the realm that whenever Mr. Planta died he should receive the offer of successorship. Mr. Henry Fynes Clinton, in those quiet ante-reform days, had been able, for twenty years, to unite the functions of a Member of Parliament with the assiduous pursuits of scholarship in one of its highest forms. Learning had higher charms for him than Politics, and he had no turn for debate, but he had steadily attended the House of Commons while giving to the world his Fasti Hettenici and Fasti Romani. Six months before Mr. Planta's decease, the Archbishop of Canterbury had, in effect, promised Mr. Fynes Clinton that he woidd nominate him to be Principal Librarian, and the Archbishop well knew that, as far as learning went, such an appointment would be applauded throughout Europe. The Archbishop (Dr. Charles Manners Sutton), did not forget his promise, and his vote carried that of the then Speaker of the House of Commons, who was the Archbishop's son. Their joint communication with the Lord Chancellor procured his assent also. 'We have made,'
Lord Lani* downe to Archbishop of Canterbury; 20 December, 1827.
Character or Sir H. Ellis.
the Archbishop told Mr. Fynes Clinton, 'your recommendation to the King as strong as possible.' The practice, as the reader will perhaps remember, was that the then Principal Trustees should in all such cases recommend to the Sovereign two names, with such observations upon them as to those Trustees might seem appropriate.
As Mr. Ellis was now the senior officer; had had the care successively of two several departments (MSS. and Printed Books); had also served as Secretary, and, in all these employments, had acquitted himself with diligence and credit, there could, of course, be no difficulty as to the name which should be submitted to George The Fourth in company with that of Mr. Fynes Clinton. Other Trustees interested themselves in supporting, indirectly but efficiently, the claims of one who had served the Board so long. And the King was pleased to prefer the second name which had been placed before him by the Principal Trustees rather than the first. Lord Lansdowne received His Majesty's commands to signify to the Archbishop that it was upon the ground of 'long service in the Museum' that the King had made his choice.
Those who had (like the writer) opportunity to watch, during most of the succeeding thirty years, the continuance of that service, know that the King's selection was justified. Sir Henry Ellis was not gifted with any of those salient abilities which dazzle the eyes of men; but he had great power of labour, the strictest integrity of purpose, and a very kind heart. He was ever, to the Trustees, a faithful servant, up to the full measure of his ability. To those who worked under him he was always courteous, considerate, and very often he was generous. He would sometimes expose himself to misconstruction, in order to appease discords. He would at times rather seem wanting in