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OF IMPROVE-
MENT.

of the admirable Report on the National Library, written Bookiii,

on a far more extended scale, which was afterwards laid nlsTonv

before the Government, and, ultimately, before Parliament. JJTM,,

If this Report failed to lead, immediately (or, indeed, i»»»!*s»<

. * * H. Ellis.

for a long time to come), to the increased means of acquisition on which its writer's mind was so much bent, the fault did not lie in the Trustees. It lay with the House of Commons, and with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Ta* •»

It is hard to realise, in 1870, how entirely the effort I«tbetm for an adequate improvement of the British Museum was an uphill task. Trustees like the late Lord Derby and the late Sir R. H. Inglis were earnestly desirous to carry out such recommendations as those of Mr. Panizzi, but the employment of urging them on the Ministry was an ungrateful one. In those days of reforming-activity, although, in 1837, the average radicals in 'the House' were not quite such devout believers in the faith that a general overturn was the only road to a general millenium as they had been in 1832, they were willing enough to listen to attacks upon the managers of any public institution (no matter how crude were the views of the assailants, or how lopsided their information), but they were not half so ready to open the public purse-strings in order to enable impugned managers or trustees to improve the institution entrusted to them upon a worthy scale.

Three months after writing his Report of 1837, Mr. Panizzi was enabled to procure the official assistance of Mr. Watts. The appointment strengthened his hands, by giving to a man of extraordinary powers for organization and government, the services of a man not less extraordinary for his powers of accumulating and assimilating detail. What each man characteristically possessed, was just the right supplement to the special Book in, faculties "of the other. But even such a happy union of History personal qualities would have failed to carry into effect the Miwk large aspirations for the improvement of the Museum which ii'""eilm* ^oth men' severa% an{l independently, had cherished (during many years), but for one other circumstance. This was a merely incidental—one might say a fortuitous— circumstance; but it proved very influential upon the fortunes of the British Museum in the course of the years to come. When Mr. Panizzi began to be known in London see hereafter, society—at first, very much by the instrumentality of the late Mr. Thomas Grenville, who, at an early period, had become warmly attached to him—his acquaintance was eagerly cultivated. In this way he obtained opportunities to preach his doctrine of increased public support for our great national and educational institutions (his advocacy was not limited within the four walls of the Museum) in the ears of very valuable and powerful listeners. It was thought, now and then, that he preached on that topic out of season as well as in season. But the issue amply vindicated the zeal which prompted him to make the pleasures of social intercourse subserve the performance of a public trust. Few men, I imagine—holding the unostentatious post of a librarianship—ever possessed so many social opportunities of the kind here referred to, as were possessed by Mr. Panizzi. And even those listeners who may have thought him over-pertinacious, sometimes, in pressing his convictions, must needs have carried away with them the assurance that one public servant, at all events, did not regard his duties as 'irksome.' They must have seen that this man's heart was in his official work.

So was it also in the instance of Mr. Panizzi's righthand man within the Museum itself. Thomas Watts was not gifted with powers of persuasive argument. His address and manners did no sort of justice to the intrinsic Boo* Hi,

qualities, or to the true heart, of the man himself. To Hmon

strangers, they often gave a most inaccurate idea of his Mutmuh

faculties and character. Under the outward guise of a "n°i!e81"

° H. Ellis.

blunt-spoken farmer, there dwelt, not only high scholarship, but a lofty sense—it would not be too strong to say a passionate sense—of public duty. He had none of the persuasive gifts of vivid talk. But he could preach forcibly, by example. When he had made some way with the first task which was assigned him, that of superintending the removal of the Library, and its due ordering—in some of the details of which he was ably assisted, almost from the outset, by Mr. George Bullen (who, in January, 1838, was first specially employed to retranscribe the press-marks or symbols of the books, as they stood in old Montagu House, into the new equivalents necessitated by their altered position in the new Library, in which labour he was, in the April following, assisted by Mr. N. W. Simons)—and had solved, by assiduous effort and self-denying labour, some of the many difficulties which stood in the way of effecting that removal without impeding, to any serious degree, the service of the Public Reading Room, he turned his attention, at Mr. Panizzi's instance, to the—to him—far more grateful task of preparing lists of foreign books for addition to the Library. For this task he evinced special qualities and attainments which, I believe, were never surpassed, by any librarian in the world j not even by an Audiffredi, a Van-praet, or a Magliabkchi.

Mr. Watts' earliest schoolfellows had marvelled at his L"""j»"o

ATTA1N

faculty for acquiring with great rapidity such a degree of «mi« familiarity with foreign tongues, as gave him an amply Watm. sufficient master-key to their several literatures. When

Bom in, yet very young, he showed a scholarly appreciation of the Histobt right methods of setting to work. He studied languages Muskum in groups—giving his whole mind to one group at a time, H'eixis!" anc' ^en passing to another. At an age when many men (far from being blockheads) are painfully striving after a literary command of their mother-tongue, young Avatts had showed himself to be master of two several clusters of the great Indo-European family, and to have a very respectable acquaintance with a third. When, as a youthful volunteer at the Museum, he was fulfilling a request made to him by Mr. Babkr, that he would catalogue the Collection of Icelandic books given to the Public, half a century before, by Sir Joseph Banks, and also another parcel of Russian books, which had been bought at his own recommendation, the reading of Chinese literature was the labour of his hours of private study, and the reading of Polish literature was the recreation of his hours of leisure. What the feelings of an ambitious student of that strain would be when officially instructed by his superior to take under his sole (or almost sole) charge the duty of examining the Museum Catalogues, and of obtaining from all parts of Europe and Asia, and from many parts of America, other catalogues of every kind, in order to ascertain the deficiencies of the Library, and to supply them, the reader can fancy. The new assistant luxuriated in his office. Many of his suggestions were periodically and earnestly supported with the Trustees by Mr. Panizzi. His labours were appreciated and often (to my personal knowledge) warmly applauded by his superior officer. His Lists He began with making lists of Russian books that were DiwiDK. desiderata in the Museum Library; then of Hungarian; then of Dutch; then of French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese; then of Chinese; then of Welsh; then of the

RATA.

OF THE

Museum

Under Sir H. Ellis.

rapidly growing, but theretofore (at the Museum) much Booxiii, neglected, literature of the Americas and the Indies. Histori

I used, now and then, to watch him at his work, and to think that no man could possibly be employed more entirely to his liking. Long after I ceased to enjoy any opportunity of talking with him about his employment, I used occasionally to hear that similar tasks occupied, not infrequently, the hours of evening leisure as well as the hours of official duty. Some who knew him more intimately than—of late years—it was my privilege to know him, believe that his early death was in part (humanly speaking) due to his passion for poring over catalogues and other records of far-off literatures when worn-out nature needed to be refreshed, and to be recreatively interested in quite other occupations.

During the last twenty years alone (1850-1869 inclusive) he cannot have marked and recommended for purchase less than a hundred and fifty thousand foreign works, and in order to their selection he must needs have examined almost a million of book-titles, in at least eighteen different languages.

When little more than half that last-named term of years had expired he was able to write—in a Report which he addressed to Mr. Panizzi in February, 1861—that the common object of Keeper and Assistant-Keeper had been, during almost a quarter of a century, to 'bring together from all quarters the useful, the elegant, and the curious literature of every language; to unite with the best English Library in England, or the world, the best Russian Library out of Russia, the best German out of Germany, the best Spanish out of Spain, and so with every language from Italian to Icelandic, from Polish to Portuguese. In five of the languages in which it now claims this species of supremacy, in Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Danish, and Swedish, I

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