founder. And, of late years, the Academy itself has, in many ways, nobly vindicated its foundation and the aid it has received from the Public. Towards the foundation of the Academy, Gkorge The Third gave, from his privy purse, more than five thousand pounds. To many of its members he was a genial friend, as well as a liberal patron.

Many other institutions of public education shared his liberality. Some generous benefactions which he gave to the British Museum itself, in the earlier years of his reign, have been mentioned already. But there were a crowd of other gifts, both in the earlier and in the later years, of which the limits of this volume at present forbid me to make detailed mention.

The Continental tour of Mr. Barnard was very successful as to its main object. He obtained such rich accessions for the Library as raised it—especially in the various departments of Continental history and literature — much above all other Libraries in Britain.

Within a few years of his return to England the very choice Collection which had been formed by Dr. Anthony Askew came into the market. For this Library, in bulk, the King offered Askew's representatives five thousand pounds. They thought they could make more of the Collection by an auction, but, in the event, obtained less than four thousand pounds. The Askew Library extended only to three thousand five hundred and seventy separate printed works, but it contained a large proportion of rare and choice books. The chief buyers at the sale were the Duke of La Valliere and (through the agency of De Bbre) Lewis The Sixteenth. The King of England bought comparatively little, although on this occasion Mr. Barnard could scarcely have withholden his hand on the score of the special injunctions which the King had formerly £°°pK $ laid down for his guidance in such public competitions. the

° 11 King's Or

For it deserves to be remembered that George The -georgianThird's conscientious thoughtfulness for other people led him, early in his career as a Collector, to give to his librarian a general instruction such as the servants of wealthy Collectors rarely receive. 'I do not wish you,' he said, ' to bid either against a literary man who wants books for study, or against a known Collector of small means.' He was very free to bid, on the other hand, against a Duke of Roxburghe or an Earl Spencer.

The King's kindness of nature was also shown in the free access which he at all times afforded to scholars and students in his own Library. To this circumstance we owe some of the most interesting notices we have of his opinions of authors and of books.

In the earliest years of the Royal Collectorship part of the Library was kept in the old palace at Kew, which has °"he

. . ,. , . Georgian

long since disappeared, the site ol it being now a gorgeous Library. flower-bed. Afterwards, and on the acquisition for the Queen, of Buckingham House,* the chief part of the Collection was removed to Pimlico, and arranged in the handsome rooms of which a view appears, by way of vignette, on the title-pages of the sumptuously printed catalogue prepared by Barnard. It was at Buckingham House that Johnson's well-known conversation with the King took place, in February, 17G7.

When Johnson first began to use the Royal Collection it

* The mansion for which the Trustees of the British Museum had been asked to give £30,000 was sold, five years afterwards, to the King for £20,000. It was purchased for the Queen as a jointure-house in lieu of her proper mansion, Somerset House, then devoted to public purposes. All the royal princes and princesses were born in Buckingham House, except George IV, and one, perhaps, of the younger children.




1767, Febru


Croker's Boswell, pp. 184-186.

was still in its infancy. He was surprised both at its extent and at the number of rare and choice books which it already included. He had seen BARNARD's assiduity, and had helped him occasionally in his book-researches, long prior to the tour of 1768. But it astonished him to see that the King, within six or seven years, had gathered so fine a Library as that which he saw in 1767. He became a frequent visitor. The King, hearing of the circumstance, desired his librarian to let him know when the literary autocrat came again. The King's first questions were about the doings at Oxford, whence, he had been told, Johnson had recently returned. The Doctor expressed his inability to bestow much commendation on the diligence then exhibited by the resident scholars of the University in the way of any conspicuous additions to literature. Presently, the King put to him the question, “And what are you about yourself?’ “I think,’ was the answer—given in a tone more modest than the strict sense of the words may import— that I have already done my part as a writer. To which the King rejoined, ‘I should think so too, had you not written so well. After this happy retort, the King turned the conversation on some recent theological controversies. About that between WARBURTON and LowTH he made another neat though obvious remark—‘When it comes to calling names, argument, truly, is pretty well at an end. They then passed in review many of the periodical publications of the day, in the course of which His Majesty displayed considerable knowledge of the chief books of that class, both English and French. He showed his characteristic and kingly attention to minutiae by an observation which he made when JoHNSON had praised an improved arrangement of the contents of the Philosophical Transactions—

oblivious, at the moment, that he had himself suggested the Book Ii, change. 'They have to thank Dr. Johnson for that/ said Tite IV the King.

Another remark made by George The Third during this LiBaiBifconversation deserves to be remembered. 'I wish/ said he, 'that we could have a really well-executed body of British Biography.' This was a desideratum in the seventh year of the old King, and it is a desideratum still in the thirtyfourth year of his granddaughter. The reign of Queen VicToria was comparatively young when the late Mr. Murray first announced, not without some nourish of trumpets, a forthcoming attempt at such a labour, but the little that was said as to the precise plan and scope of the work then contemplated, gave small promise of an adequate performance; and hitherto there has been no performance at all.

Six years after the interview with Johnson, another lite- Taking's rary conversation, of which we have a record, was held in TION WITH the Royal Library. But on this occasion the scene was Beatm*; Kew. Dr. Beattie's fame is now a thing of the past. There is still, however, some living interest in the account of the talk between the author of The Minstrel and his 1773. sovereign, held in 1773, about liturgies, about prayers occasional and prayers ex tempore, and about the methods of of Beattie, education adopted in the Scottish universities. TMu,pp.347.

The King's least favourable—but not least characteristic —appearance, as a talker on literary subjects, is made in that conversation with Miss Burney, in which he uttered wi"< his often-quoted remark on Shakespeare :—' Was there Burney. ever such stuff as great part of Shakespeare—only one must not say so?' The sense of the humorous seems in 1785

■* t December.

George III to have been wholly lacking. And some part of the sadness of his life has probably a vital connexion with that deficiency.

In the last-mentioned conversation, the King evinced considerable acquaintance with French literature. He shared, to some extent, the then very general admiration for RousSeau, on whom he had bestowed more than one act of kindness during the brief English exile of the author of Emile. He shared, also, the common impression as to the absence of gratitude in the brilliant Frenchman's character. When Miss Burney told him that his own portrait had been seen to occupy the most conspicuous place in Rousseau's livingroom after his return to France, the King was both surprised and touched.

Next after the large and choice acquisitions made for the King's Library on the Continent, some of its most conspicuous and valuable literary treasures were acquired at the several sales, in London, of the Libraries of James West (1773), of John Ratcliffe (1776), and of Richard Farmer (1798). It was at the first of these sales that George The Third laid the foundation of his unequalled series of the productions of the father of English printing. George The The Caxtons bought for the King at West's sale included uRnsoi the dearly prized Becuyell of the Histories of Troye (1472clxws0* 1474?), the Booke of the Chesse (1476 ?), the Canterbury Peess. Tales of Chaucer (1478?), the Dictes and Sayinges of the Philosophers (1480), the Mirrour of the World (1481), the Godfrey of Boloyne (1482), the Confessio Amantis (1483), the Paris and Vienne (1485), and the BoyalBooke (1487 ?). Of these, the lowest in price was the Confessio of 1483, which the King acquired for nine guineas, and the highest in price was the Chaucer of 1478, which cost him fortyseven pounds fifteen shillings.

At the same sale, he also acquired another Caxton, which has a peculiar interest. The King's copy of the Troylus

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »