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I regard these scientific collections as possessing, in common with the others, the highest educational value, and as also possessing, even a little beyond some of the others, a special claim, it may be, upon the respect of Englishmen.
That speciality of claim seems to me to accrue from the fact, that two of the early Founders, and one of the most conspicuous subsequent Benefactors of the Museum, were pre-eminently Naturalists. Such was Courten. Such was Sloane. Such was Sir Joseph Banks. I shall have erred greatly in my estimate of the regard habitually paid by a British Parliament to the memory of the eminent benefactors of Britain, if, in the issue, it do not become apparent that such a consideration as this will weigh heavily with those who will shortly—and after due deliberation and debate—have to decide pending questions in relation to the enlargement and to the still further improvement of the British Museum.
Be that however as it ultimately shall prove to be, if the Public should honour this volume with a favourable reception, it will be its author's endeavour (in a second edition) to supplement, by the knowledge and co-operation of others, the ignorance and the deficiencies of which he is very conscious in himself.
In resuming the notices connected with the now truly magnificent Collection of Antiquities, we have to glance at the organizing of a new 1 Department' in the Museum. During at least two generations it has been, from time to time, remarked—with some surprise as well as censure—that the 'British' Museum contained no 'British' Antiquities. Sometimes this criticism has been put much too strongly, as when, for example, one of the recent biographers of Wedgwood thus wrote (in 1866, but referring also to a period then ninety years distant). 'At that Boon.ni, date, as at present, everything native to the soil, or pro- Othu duced by the races who had lived and died upon it, was Totm"0 repudiated by those who were the rulers of the National.^"TM Collection.' At that time, assuredly, there were already in Metcyani, the Museum a good many British beasts, British birds, and l£'t£J^ak British books;—no inconsiderable part of the 'pro- »olu,p.im. ductions' of our soil and of the races born and nurtured upon it.
But, within a few months after the appearance of the criticism I have quoted, all ground for its repetition was removed by the formation of the 'Department of British and Mediaeval Antiquities and Ethnography.' It is thus organized, in six separate sections :—
§ I. British Antiquities anterior to the Roman period.
III. Anglo-Saxon Antiquities.
IV. Mediaeval sculpture, carving, paintings, metal work, enamels,
pottery, glass, stone ware; and implements of various kinds, and of various material. V. Costumes, weapons, accoutrements, tools, furniture, industrial productions, &c.—both ancient and modern—of non-European races. VI. Pre-historic Antiquities.* * 8ee the
notice, hereafter, of the
To the enrichment of the fourth section of this new Christy
department of the Museum (in a small degree), as well as (much more largely) to that of the Classical Collections, the choice treasures gathered in France during two generations by successive Dukes of Blacas largely contributed.
The first of these Dukes, Peter Lewis John Casimir de T««bhoa« Blacas, was born at Aulps in the year 1770. He was of a And Its family which has been conspicuous in Provence from the be- ^"sea' ginning of the Crusades. Attaining manhood just at the eve of the Revolution, the Duke followed the French princes into
exile, and warmly attached himself to Lewis The EighTeenth, to whom, in after years, he became the minister of predilection, as distinguished from that monarch's many ministers of constraint. He had, in his own day, the reputation of being a courtier; but seems to have been, in truth, an honest, frank, and outspeaking adviser. One saying of his depicts quite plainly the nature of the man, and also the nature of the work he had to do :—" If you want to defend your Crown, 30U musn't run away from your Kingdom.' Those words were spoken in 1815 ; and, as we all know, were spoken in vain.
A statesman of that stamp—one who does not watch and chronicle the shiftings of popular opinion, in order to know with certainty what are his own opinions, or in order to shape his own political 'principles'—rarely enjoys popularity. De Blacas became so little popular at home, that the King was forced to send him, for many years, abroad. At Rome, he negotiated the Concordat (1817-19); at Naples, he advised an amnesty (1822), together with other measures, some of which were too wise for the latitude. In the interval between his two residences at the Court of Naples, he took part in the Congress of Laybach.
The opportunities afforded by diplomacy in Italy and in other countries were turned to intellectual and archaeological, as well as to political, account. He imitated the example of Hamilton and of Elgin, and that of a crowd of his own countrymen, long anterior to either. Since his son's death, the British Museum has, by purchase, entered into his archaeological labours almost as largely—in their way and measure—as it has inherited the treasures of its own enlightened ambassadors at Naples and at Constantinople.
The Duke died atGoeritz in 1839. Nine years earlier,
he had advised Chari.es X against the measures which Boosiii,
'He that can endure
The late Duke of Blacas augmented his father's collec tions by many purchases of great extent and value. His B|ACAS
» / r _ a Collection
special predilection was for coins and gems. In that department the combined museum of father and son soon came to rank as the finest known collection, belonging to an individual possessor. It includes seven hundred and forty-eight ancient and classical cameos and intaglios, and two hundred and three others which are either mediaeval, oriental, or modern. The most precious portion of the Strozzi cabinet passed into it, as did also a choice part of the collections, respectively, of Barth and of De La Turbie. The Blacas Museum is also eminently rich in vases and paintings of various kinds; in sculptures, on every variety of material; in terracottas, and in ancient glass. Its 'silver toilet service' of a Christian Roman lady of the fifth century, named Projecta, has been made famous throughout Europe by the descriptive accounts which have appeared from the pen of Visconti and from that of Labarte. The casket is richly chased with figure-subjects. Among them are seen figures of Venus and Cupid; of the lady herself and of her bridegroom, Secundus. Roman bridesmaids, of Book III, indubitable flesh and blood, are mingled with the more Sjitkr L unsubstantial forms of Nereids, riding upon Tritons.
KicF.»T Of the men devoted, in our own dav, to the enchaining
pursuits of Natural History, few better deserve a compeciMmoiius tent biographer than does Hugh Cuming, whose career, in
1 R A V E LS
And ins its relation to the Museum history, has an additional interest
noM*TM for us from the circumstance that his course in life was partly shaped by his having attracted, in childhood, the
Whf.««. notice of another worthy naturalist and public benefactor,
sle rage s7o. Colonel George Montagu, of Lackham.
Young Cuming's childish fondness for picking up shells and gathering plants attracted Colonel Montagu's notice about the time that the boy was apprenticed to a sailmaker, living not far from the boy's native village, West Alvington, in Devon. The elder naturalist fostered the nascent passion of his young and humble imitator, and the trade of sailmaking brought Cuming, whilst still a boy, into contact with sailors. The benevolent and Nature-loving Colonel told the youngster some of the fairy tales of science; the tars spun yarns for him about the marvels of foreign parts. A few, and very few, years of work at his trade at home were followed by a voyage to South America. At Valparaiso he resumed his handicraft, but only as a step (by aid of frugality and foresight) towards saving enough of money to enable him to devote his whole being to conchology and to botany. Seven years of work under this inspiring ambition, seem to have enabled the man of five-and-thirty to retire from business, and to build himself a yacht. But his was to be no lounging yachtman's life; it was rather to resemble the life of an A.B. before the mast. The year 1827 was spent in toiling and dredging, to good purpose, amongst the islands of the South Pacific. When he re