Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

Chap. II.
HISTORY

MUSEUX

H. ELLIS.

editor's own clear conviction of his duty, and in spite of his Book III, remonstrance. We must retrench,' was the one answer a to all editorial recommendations of real improvement. And OF THE meanwhile the publishers were actually netting fair profits under Sie from a long list of confiding subscribers. What might 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 Norden's Essex, among the standard illustrations of our archæology 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.

Book III, Chap. II. HISTORY OF THE MUSEUM

H. ELLIS.

BIR H. ELLIS
AT THE
BRITISN
MUSEUX.

STATE OF
THE BRITISH

STAFF AT

THE DEATH OY MR. PLANTA.

At the British Museum he had a considerable advantage over his predecessor in the Principal Librarianship. He

enjoyed the assistance, almost from the first, of an abler UNDER SIB staff, in more than one of the departments, than Mr.

PLANTA had commanded during the earlier years of his LABOCBS OF administration. And an improved order of service had

been established before Mr. Ellis's rule began. In this way appliances lay already under his hand which facilitated the work of progress, when—more especially—a strong demand 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 Museum the charge of the Rev. Henry Hervey BaBER (the eminent THE TIME OF editor of the ‘Alexandrian MS.' of the Septuagint). He

was assisted by Mr. Henry Francis Cary, the translator of 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. König 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

IS

HISTORY
OF THE
MUSEUM

H. ELLIS.

THE CANDEDATURE OF

[ocr errors]

great familiarity with the whole service of the Museum Book III,

Chap. II. which he had acquired during his labours as Secretary WISTORY from the year 1814. The secretarial duty had been combined with the functions of keepership during thirteen UNDER SIT 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 1 possessed large influence, both social and political, had MR. H. obtained the virtual promise of almost the highest per- CLINTON. 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 Hellenici and Fasti Romani. Six months before Mr. Planta's decease, the Archbishop of CANTERBURY had, in effect, promised Mr. FYNES CLINTON that he would 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,'

HISTORY
OF THE
MUSEUM

H. ELLIS.

Journ. of H. Fynes Clinton,

Dunted Rock

rary Remains

Book III, the Archbishop told Mr. FYNES CLINTON, “your recommen. Chap. II.

dation to the King as strong as possible.' The practice,

as the reader will perhaps remember, was that the then UNDER SIR 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. Letters and As Mr. Ellis was now the senior officer ; had had the

care successively of two several departments (MSS. and in the Lite- Printed Books); had also served as Secretary, and, in all

ins these employments, had acquitted himself with diligence (1854), pass.

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 Archbishop His Majesty's commands to signify to the Archbishop that bury ; 20 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, ER 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

Lord Lansdowne to

of Canter

December, 1827.

SERVICES
AND
CHARACTER
OF SIR H.
ELLIS.

Chap. II.

OF THE MUSEUM UNDER SIR

ng na

n

[ocr errors]

H. ELLIS.

p. 82.

firmness of will than, by pressing his authority, wound the Book III, feelings of well-intentioned but irritable subordinates. No His one could receive from him a merited reproof—I speak WOTHER from personal experience—without perceiving that the duty UNDER SIE of giving it was felt to be a painful duty. The Commissioners of 1850 had ample warrant for hinting, in their Report to the Crown—when alluding to certain internal disputes—that the qualities least abounding in Sir Henry Ellis's composition were those which equip a mon for Report (1850) such harsher duties of his office, as cannot be accomplished by the aid of conciliatory manners, the index of a benevolent disposition.'

A man of that temper will now and then, in his own despite, get forced into a somewhat bitter controversy. One sharp attack on Sir Henry's administration of his Principal-Librarianship had a close connection with discords of an anterior date which had broken out in the Society of the Antiquaries. The late Sir Harris NICOLAS would scarcely OP THE have criticised, with so much vehemence, what he thought to have been a careless indifference on Ellis's part to the acquisition for the British Museum of an important body of historical manuscripts, preserved in a chateau in a distant corner of France (and offered to the Trustees in 1829), but for the circumstance that Sir Henry's kindly unwillingness, evinced a little while before, to desert a very weak colleague at Somerset-House had stood in the way of some much-needed reforms in that quarter. Without in the least intending beforehand to represent things unfairly, Sir H. Nicolas acted under the influence of an unconscious bias or pre-judgment. The Joursanvault story is still worth telling, although it has now become an old story, and one portion of the historical treasures it relates to are now past wishing for, as an English possession.

THE STORY

AT POMARD.

now

« ElőzőTovább »