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The recreative pursuits, alike of the book-collector and Book it,
of the agriculturist, as well as the labours of the consci- Tm
entious monarch, were at length to be arrested by that ^°^.°l,s.
great calamity which, after clouding over some months of LiBK»aY
the years of vigour, was destined to veil in thick gloom all i"ness ot
J ° ° GcORGKllI;
the years of decline—the years when great public triumphs 1910
'Thy lov'd ones fell around thee.
Didst walk unconscious through thy royal towers,
But who can tell what visions might be thine?
When George The Third died at Windsor Castle, on *TMjj' the 29th of January, 1820, the public mourning was sincere. During its ten years of rule, the Regency had done very much to heighten and intensify regret for the calamity of 1810. The errors of the old monarch came, naturally, to be dwarfed to the view, when his private virtues acquired all the sharp saliency of contrast.
Since his death, political writers have usually been somewhat harsh to his memory. But the verdict of history has not yet been given in. When the time for its delivery shall at length come, there will be a long roll of good deeds to set off against many mistakes in policy. Nor will the genuine piety, and the earnest conscientiousness of the individual man—up to the measure of the light vouchsafed
to him—lie forgotten in the preliminary summing up. Wliat George The Third did for Britain simply in conferring upon it the social blessings of a pure Court, and of a bright personal example, is best to be estimated by contemplating what, in that respect, existed before it, and also what came immediately after it. Comparisons of such a sort will serve, eventually, to better purpose than that of feathering the witty shafts of reckless satirists, whether in prose or in verse. Meanwhile, it is enough to say that no honester, no more God-fearing man, than was George The Third, ever sat upon the throne of England.
State or Thk Kino's Library In January,
During all the time of his long illness, the King's Library had continued, more or less, to grow. When he died, it contained sixty-five thousand two hundred and fifty volumes, besides more than nineteen thousand unbound tracts. These have; since been bound severally. The total number of volumes, therefore, which the Collection comprised was about eighty-four thousand. At the time of the King's decease, the annual cost of books in progress, and of periodical works, somewhat exceeded one thousand pounds. The annual salaries of the staff—four officers and two servants—amounted to eleven .hundred and seventy-one pounds. The Library occupied a fine and extensive suite of rooms in Buckingham Palace. One of them was large enough to make a noble billiard-room.
The Royal Library, therefore, embarrassed King George The Fourth in two ways. It cost two thousand two hundred pounds a year, even without making any new additions to its contents. It occupied much space in the royal residence which could be devoted to more agreeable purposes. Then came the welcome thought that, instead of being a charge, it might be made a source of income. The Emperor of Russia was known to covet, as a truly imperial Book It. luxury, what to the new King of Great Britain was but a ^Iv' costly burden. He broached the idea—but met, instead of K'N0'S OR
* t Georgia*'
encouragement, with strong remonstrance. Libbary.
The news of the royal suggestion soon spread abroad. Amongst those who heard of it with disgust were Lord Farnborough (who is said to have learnt the design in talking, one day, with Princess Lieven) and Richard Heber. Both men bestirred themselves to prevent the King from publicly disgracing the country in that way. Lord Farnborough betook himself to a conference with the Premier, Lord Liverpool. Mr. Heber discussed the matter with Lord Sidmouth. By the ministers, public opinion upon the suggested sale was pretty strongly and emphatically conveyed to His Majesty, whatever may have been the courtliness of tone employed about it.
George The Fourth, however, was not less strongly cosrTMimpressed by the charms of the prospective rubles from TM"' Russia. He felt that he could find pleasant uses for a Ga"Lat 1V
l AND HIS
windfall of a hundred and eighty thousand pounds, or so. M""»tmm
illriii l • • oy Disposal
And he fought hard to secure his expected prize—or some Of'thx indubitably solid equivalent. 'If I can't have the rubles,' said the King, 'you must find me their value in pounds tbeQmrteri,, sterling.' The Ministers were much in earnest to save the 1^0TM!:'' Library, and, in the emergency, laid their hands upon a ^ITiii'p' certain surplus which had accrued from a fund furnished some years before by France, to meet British claims for losses sustained at the date of the first French Revolution. S3«»/But the expedient became the subject of an unpleasant f^Tlke hint in the House of Commons. And the Government, it ammtuim. is said, then resorted to that useful fund, the 'Droits of Mm. (also in Admiralty.' By hook or crook, Gkorge The Fourth \Hll"),v?-17, received his ' equivalent.' He then sat down to his writing
table (at Brighton), to assure Lord Liverpool—in his official capacity—of the satisfaction he felt in having 'this means of advancing the Literature of my Country.' Then he proceeded to add :—' I also feel that I am paying a just tribute to the memory of a Parent, whose life was adorned with every public and private virtue.'
The Executors or Trustees of King George The Third knew well what the monarch's feelings about his Library would, in all reasonable probability, have been, had he possessed mental vigour when preparing for his last change. They exacted from the Trustees of the Museum a pledge that the Royal Library should be preserved apart, and entire.
Parliament, on its side, made a liberal provision for the erection of a building worthy to receive the Georgian Library. The fine edifice raised in pursuance of a parliamentary vote cost a hundred and forty thousand pounds. It provided one of the handsomest rooms in Europe for the main purpose, and it also made much-needed arrangements for the reception and exhibition of natural-history Collections, above the books.
The removal of the Royal Library from Buckingham House was not completed until August, 1828. All who saw the Collection whilst the building was in its first purity of colour—and who were old enough to form an opinion on such a point—pronounced the receptacle to be eminently worthy of its rich contents. The floor-cases and the heavy tables—very needful, no doubt—have since detracted not a little from the architectural effect and elegance of the room itself.
Along with the printed books, and the extensive geographical Collections, came a number of manuscripts—on historical, literary, and geographical subjects.* By some Bookii, transient forgetfulness of the pledge given to Lord Faun- T„e Borough, the manuscripts, or part of them, were, in March, .kg"°180°a,i,. 1841, sent to the ' Manuscript Department' of the Museum. LlB**a' But Mr. Panizzi, then the Keeper of the Printed Books, «;„„<„„/■ successfully reclaimed them for their due place of deposit, flr85o""a according to the arrangement of 1823. Nor was such a ab0Teclaim a mere official punctilio.
In every point of view, close regard to the wishes of donors, or of those who virtually represent them, is not more a matter of simple justice than it is a matter of wise and foreseeing policy in the Trustees of Public Museums. The integrity of their Collections is often, and naturally, an anxious desire of those who have formed them. In a subsequent chapter (C. ii of Book III) it will be seen that the wish expressed by the representatives of King George The Third was also the wish of a munificent contemporary and old minister of his, who, many years afterwards, gave to the Nation a Library only second in splendour to that which had been gathered by George The Third.
Not the least curious little fact connected with the Georgian Library and its gift to the Public, is that the gift was predicted thirty-one years before George The Fourth wrote bis letter addressed to Lord Liverpool from the Pavilion at Brighton, and twenty-eight years before the death of George The Third.
In 1791, Frederick Wendeborn wrote thus:—'The King's private Library .. . can boast very valuable and magnificent books, which, as it is said, will be one time or another
• Curiously enough, three volumes of the Georgian MSS. had belonged to Sir Hans Sloane, and had, iu soma unexplained way, come to be separated from the bulk of his Collection. They now rejoiued their old companions in Great Russell Street.