« ElőzőTovább »
superior place' brings to a public servant, is a somewhat Bookih, amusing subject of conjecture. HisTM**
It was with perfect honesty and integrity of purpose that y" Mr. Cart adduced medical testimony of his fitness for continued but diminished labours. He would have exerted himself to the best of his ability. But it was a blemish in an excellent man that (under momentary irritation) he twice permitted himself to reproach his competitor and colleague with being 'a foreigner.'
One would fain have hoped that our famous countryman Daniel Defoe had, a hundred years before, put all reproach and contumely on the score of a man's not being a 'trueborn Englishman' quite out of Court, in all contentions concerning capabilities of public service. But, of all places in the world, a Museum is the queerest place in which to raise petty questions of nationality. If it be at all worthy of its name, its contents must have come from the four quarters of the globe. Men of every race under Heaven must have worked hard to furnish it. It brings together the plants of Australia; the minerals of Peru; the shells of the far Pacific; the manuscripts which had been painfully compiled or transcribed by twenty generations of labourers in every corner of Europe, as well as in the monasteries of Africa and of the Eastern Desert; and the sculptures and the printed books of every civilised country in the world. And then it is proposed—when arrangements are to be made for turning dead collections into living fountains of knowledge —that the question asked shall be: not 'What is your capacity to administer?' but 'Where were you born?' I hope, and I believe, that in later years Mr. Cart regretted that he had permitted a name so deservedly honoured to endorse so poor a sophism.
Book in, Mr. Antonio Panizzi received his appointment on the
HisTORj fifteenth of July, 1837. If he had worked hard to gain
M'wm promotion, he worked double tides to vindicate it. In the
H Eum" f°H°wulg month, Mr, Cart resigned his Assistant-Libra
Pakizzi". rianship. He left the Museum with the hearty respect and
Mm't'is" wi*n ^ne Dr°therly regrets of all his colleagues, without any
Kmpkr or exception. Of him, it ma}' very truly be said, he was a man
Booes, July, much beloved.
Nor was it otherwise with Mr. Baber. His public services began in old Bodley towards the end of the year 1796, and they were so efficient as to open to him, at the beginning of the present century, a subordinate post in the British Museum, his claims to which he waived the instant that he knew they would stand in the way of Ellis, his early friend of undergraduate days. He became Assistant-Librarian in 1807; Keeper of Printed Books in 1812. He, too, was a man with no enemies. In literature he won (before he was fifty) an enduring place by his edition of the Fetus Testamentum Gracum e Codice MS. Alcxandrino .... descriptum. Of the amiability of character which distinguished Mr. Baber, not less than did his scholarship, the present writer had more than common experience. It was my fortune to make my first intimate acquaintance (1835) with the affairs of the British Museum in the capacity of a critic on that part of Mr Babkr's discharge of his manifold functions as Keeper which related to the increase of the Library, both by purchase and by the operation of the Copyright Act. I criticised some of his doings, and some of his omissions to do, Avith youthful presumption, and with that self-confident half-knowledge which often lends a man more astray, practically, than does sheer ignorance. So far from resenting strictures, a few of which may have had some small validity and value, while a good many were certainly plausible but shallow, he turned the former to profit, and, so far from Bookiii, resenting the latter, repeatedly evinced towards their B"Li author acts of courtesy and kindness. It was in his J,""TM company that I first explored—as we strode from beam to TM°TMSi<>beam of the unfinished flooring—the new Library rooms in which, long afterwards, I was to perform my humble spell of work on the Catalogue of the Printed Books; as he had performed his hard-by almost thirty years earlier.
Mr. Baber survived his retirement from his Keepership (in 1S37) no less than thirty-two years. He died, on the twenty-eighth of March, 1869, at his rectory-house at Stretham, in the Isle of Ely, and in his 94th year. He had then been F.R.S. for fifty-three years, and had survived his old friend Sir Henry Ellis by a few weeks. He served his parishioners in Cambridgeshire, as he had served his country in London, with unremitting zeal and punctual assiduity.
One of Mr. Panizzi's earliest employments in his new office of 1837 was to make arrangements for the formidable task of transferring the whole mass of the old Library from Montagu House to the new Building, but he also did something immediately towards preparing the way for that systematic enlargement of the Collection of Printed Books which he had formerly and so earnestly pressed on the attention, not merely of the Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1835-36, but of every Statesman and Parliament-man whose ear he could gain, whether (in his interlocutor's opinion) in season or out of season. To use the expression of the man who, at a later date, mainly helped him in that task, Mr. Panizzi's leading thought, in regard to Public Libraries, was that Paris must be surpassed. In common with others of us who, like himself, had been examined before Mr. Hawes' Committee on that subject, he had brought into Book Hi, salient relief some points of superiority which foreign History countries possessed over Britain, but the ruling motive
of the unsavoury comparison was British improve ment,
not, most assuredly, British discredit.
In the formidable business of the transfer of the bulk of the National Library, Mr. Panizzi received his best help from a man now just lost to us, but whose memory will surely survive. Exactly six months after his own appointment to the headship of his Department, he introduced THlt into the permanent service of the Trustees Mr. Thomas
Carkfeakd Watts. The readers of such a volume as this will not, I
IKK PIBLIC . . .... ,. • -f T 1
Services 01 imagine, think it to be a digression u 1 here make some
Waits.8 huiuble attempt to record what was achieved by my old
acquaintance—an acquaintance of almost one and thirty
years' standing—both in his varied literary labours and in
his long and fruitful service at the Museum.
Thomas Watts was born in London in the year 1811. He was educated at a private school in London, where he was very early noted for the possession of three several qualities, one or other of which is found, in a marked degree, in thousands of men and in tens of thousands of precocious boys, but the union of all of which, whether in child or in man, is rare indeed. Young Watts evinced both an astonishing capacity for acquiring languages—the most far remote from his native speech—and an unusual readiness at English composition. He had also a knack for turning off very neat little speeches and recitations. Before he was fifteen, he could give good entertainment at a breakingup or a 'speech-day.' Before he was twenty, he had gained his footing as a contributor to periodical literature.*
* I believe that his earliest contribution consisted of some articles entitled 'Notes of a Reader,' published in 1830, in a periodical (long since defunct) called The Spirit nf Lihrainrc. These were written and printed long before Mr. Watts became a correspondent of the Mechanics Magazine, as mentioned in the text.
In the autumn of the year 1835, Mr. Watts' attention Book m, was attracted to the publication of the Minutes of Evidence n^mKi taken before the Select Committee on the British Museum, the "TM£u first portion of which had been ordered to be printed, by u*DE»S,K the House of Commons, in the preceding August. He read the evidence with great interest, and ere long he wrote Mh (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 °,IT,,H 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.