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Museum Vndkr Sir H. Ellis.
In the autumn of the year 1835, Mr. Watts' attention Bookiii, was attracted to the publication of the Minutes of Evidence
taken before the Select Committee on the British Museum, the first portion of which had been ordered to be printed, by the House of Commons, in the preceding August. He ^ read the evidence with great interest, and ere long he wrote Zarls (in 1836 and 1837) some valuable comments upon it, which embodied several suggestions for the improvement of the Museum service, and for making it increasedly accessible °*!"TM to the Public. More than two or three of the suggestions so offered, he lived to carry out—long afterwards, by his own exertions, and with the cordial approval of his superior officer, Mr. Panizzi—into practice, after he had himself entered into the service of the Trustees as an Assistant in the Printed Book Department.
But he chose a very unfortunate medium for his useful communications of 1836 and 1837. He printed them in the columns of the ' Mechanics' Magazine,' where, for practical purposes, they were almost buried. Of this fact I am able to give a small illustrative and personal instance. Possibly, it may be thought to have some little biographical value, as a trait of his character.
In both of the years above named Mr. Watts did the present writer the honour to make some remarks on his humble labours for the improvement of the Museum in 1835 and 1836. Mr. Watts' remarks were very complimentary and kind in their expression. But I never saw or heard of them, until this year, 1870, after their writer had passed from the knowledge of the many acquaintances and friends who, in common with myself, much esteemed him, and who will ever honour his memory.
printed long before Mr. Watts became a correspondent of the Mechanics' Magazine, as mentioned in the text.
Book in, One of the communications which my late friend pub
Chap II *
Histoei lished in that' Mechanics' Magazine contained two suggesUvwdk ^ons—mflde contingently, and by way of alternative plans Undebsie —for tiie enlargement of the Museum buildings. Nearly eleven years afterwards (August, 1847), I unconsciously repeated those very suggestions, amongst many others, in a pamphlet, entitled Public Libraries in London and Paris. I was in complete ignorance that my suggestions of 1847 were otherwise than entirely original. I thought them wholly my own. Of the print which accompanied my pamphlet T give the reader an exact fac-simile, errors included, on the opposite plate. The print embodied very nearly the same thoughts, on the enlargement of the library, which had been expressed, so long before, in the pages of the 'Mechanics' Magazine.' The first presented copy of that pamphlet and print was given to my friend Watts. I was then absent, far from London, and I had presently the pleasure of receiving from him a long letter, containing some criticisms and remarks on my publication. But such was his modest reticence about his own prior performance, that the letter contained no word or hint concerning the anticipation of my alternative suggestions for the enlargement of the Library in his prior publication. And, in the long interval between 1837 and 1847, I suppose we had conversed about the improvement of the Museum, and about its buildings, actual and prospective, some thirty or forty times, but (as I have said) those valuable and thoughtful articles of his, printed in 1836-7—and making compli. mentary mention of my own labours, and of my evidence given before Mr. Hawes' Committee—never came within my knowledge. No part of their contents was even mentioned to me. I saw them, for the first time, in January, 1870. Very few men—within my range of acquaintance
—had so much dislike to talk of their performances, as was Book m, manifested by Thomas Watts. To this day, very much of History what he did for the Public is scarcely known even by those who (at one time or other) enjoyed the pleasure, and the °"DM SlR
honour, of his friendship. He was one of the men who 'did good by stealth,' and would have almost blushed to find it fame.
When Thomas Watts entered the Museum, the imme- wa"*'
diate task entrusted to him, onerous as it was, did not (for TM» TM*
... , . T . , AUOMKNTA
any long time) engross his attention. In common with Tiokofthk Mr. Panizzi, his desire to increase the Library, and to ^TMvu make London surpass Paris—' Paris must be surpassed,' LlBRAEI are the words which close the best of those articles, printed in 1837, to which I have just now referred—amounted to a positive passion. He did not talk very much about it; but I fancy it occupied, not only his waking thoughts, but his very dreams.
Mr. Panizzi had not been at the head of his Department many weeks before he began a Special Report to the Trustees, recommending a systematic increase of the Collection of Printed Books.
In the autumn of 1837 he could hardly foresee that one of the attacks to be made, in the after-years, upon those who had appointed him, or who had promoted his appointment, for the crime of preferring 'a foreigner' to a high post in our National Museum, would be based upon the foreigner's neglect of English Literature. 'An Italian Librarian,' said those profound logicians, 'must, naturally and necessarily, swamp the Library with Italian books. He can't help doing it.' But, strange as it may have seemed to objectors of that calibre, this particular Italian happened to be, not only a scholar—a ripe and good one—