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353;}; ancestral names appended to Mayne: Charla, or to the grim” famous letter written from Lincoln to Boniface the Eighth ; such as may, indeed, very well have had ancestors who gave their lives, or their limbs, for England at Poitiers or at Cressy, but who certainly could point to no heraldic memorials of feats of arms done on those bloody fields of France. Not a few of them, perhaps, would have been vainly asked to tell the names of their grandfathers. One boast, however, is common to both of these groups of our public benefactors. They were men who had alike 9. strong sense of gratitude to those who had gone before them, and a strong sense of duty to those who were to i come after them. To nearly all of the men whose lives will be told in this volume are applicable, in a special sense, some words of Julius HARE :—‘ They wrought in a magnanimous spirit of rivalry with Nature, or in kindly fellowship with her. . . . \Vhen they planted, they chose out the trees of longest life—the Oak, the Chestnut, the “Him, Yew, the Elm,—trees which it does us good to behold, ii while we muse on the many generations of our Forefathers, P.18- ' whose eyes have reposed within the same leafy bays.’ They were men whose large impulses and deep insight led them to work, less for themselves than for their successors. It is by dint of what men of that stamp did—and did, not under the leading of the Gospel according to Adam SMITH, but of a Gospel very much older than it—that upon us, whose day is now passing, Posterity, so to speak, ‘has cast her shadow before; and we are, at this moment, reposing beneath it.’ Of Public Benefactions, such as those '; which this volume very inadequately commemorates, it is true, with more than ordinary truth, that we owe them, mainly, to a generous conviction in the hearts of certain worthies of old days that they owed suit and service to
Posterity. This may, indeed, be said of public foresight, when evidenced in material works and in provisions to smooth some of the asperities of common life and of manual toil. But it may be said, more appropriately still, of another and a higher kind of public foresight ;—of that evidenced in educational institutions, and in the various appliances for raising and vivifying the common intellect; for enlarging its faculties; difl'using its enjoyments; and broadening its public domain. As it has been said (by the same acute thinker who has just been quoted) in better words than any of mine :—‘ The great works that were wrought by men of former times ; the great fabrics that were raised by them; their mounds and embankments against the powers of evil ; their drains to carry off mischief; the wide fields they redeemed from the overflowings of barbarism; the countless fields they enclosed and husbanded for good to grow and thrive in; . . . all this they [mainly] achieved for Posterify . . . . Except for Posterity ; except for the vital magnetic consciousness that while men perish, Man survives, the only principle of prudent conduct must have been, “Let we eat and drink, for to-morrow we
The pages which follow have been written in the belief that they afford—whatever the defects of their Writer— useful illustrations of this great and pregnant truth. To him it has not been given to work ‘for Posterity,’ otherwise than as a Chronicler of some of the workings of other men. But he owns to a special delight in that humble function. Its charm,-—to his mind,—is enhanced, on the present occasion, by the very fact that so much of the work now about to be narrated is the work of men who only rarely have been labouring with other means, or with other imple
ments, than those which were personal to themselves, as individuals.
In the chief countries of the Continent of Europe—on the other hand—great national Museums have, commonly, had their origin in the liberality and wise foresight either of some sovereign or other, or of some powerful minister whose mind was large enough to combine with the cares of State a care for Learning. In Britain, our chief public collection of literature and of science originated simply in the public spirit of private persons.
The BRITISH MUSEUM was founded precisely at that period of our history when the distinctively national, or governmental, care for the interests of literature and of science was at its lowest, or almost its lowest, point. As regards the monarchs, it would be hard to fix on any, since the dawn of the Revival of Learning, who evinced less concern for the progress and diffusion of learning than did the first and second princes of the House of Hanover. As regards Parliament, the tardy and languid acceptance of the boon proffered, posthumously, by Sir Hans SLOANE, constitutes just the one exceptional act of encouragement that serves to give saliency to the utter indifl'erence which formed the ordinary rule.
Long before SLOANE’S time (as we shall see hereafter), there had been zealous and repeated efi'orts to arouse the attention of the Government as well to the political importance as to the educational value of public museums. Many thinkers had already perceived that such collections were a positive increase of public wealth and of national greatness, as well as a powerful instrument of popular education. It had been shewn, over and over again, that for lack of public care precious monuments and treasures
of learning had been lost; sometimes by their removal to 5‘:ij far-Off countries; sometimes by their utter destruction. ExemUntil the appeal made to Parliament by the Executors of
Sir Hans SLOANE, in the middle Of the eighteenth century,
all those efforts had uniformly failed.
But Sir Hans SLOANE cannot claim to be regarded, in
dividually or very specially, as the Founder of the British $253,: Museum. His last Will, indeed, gave an opportunity for the foundation. Strictly speaking, he was not even the Mm“Founder of his own Collection, as it stood in his lifetime. The Founder of the Sloane Museum was William COURTEN, the last Of a line of wealthy Flemish refugees, whose history, in their adopted country, is a series of romantic adventures.
Parliament had previously accepted the gift of the I Cottonian Library, at the hands of Sir John COTTON, third “Hew
811108,!!! in descent from its Founder, and its acceptance of that gift 222:,me“ had been followed by almost unbroken neglect, although the gift was a noble one. Sir John, when conversing, on
one occasion, with Thomas CARTE, told the historian that he had been offered £60,000 of English money, together ram“. with a carle Mane/re for some honorary mark of royal favour, on the part of LEWIS THE FOURTEENTH, for the C°“""°“"
Library which he afterwards settled upon the British "‘1’" P" 226') nation. It has been estimated that SLOANE expended (from first to last) upon his various collections about ' £50,000 ; so that, even from the mercantile point of view, the COTTON family may be said to have been larger voluntary contributors towards our eventual National Museum than was Sir Hans SLOANE himself. That point of view,
however, would be a very false, because very narrow, one.
Whether estimated by mere money value, or by a truer standard, the third, in order of time, of the Foundation
355;}; Collections,—-that of the ‘ Harleian Manuscripts,’-—was a. 1""°”“°' much less important acquisition for the Nation than was no“. the Museum of SLOANE, or the Library of COTTON; but its literary value, as all students of our history and literature know, is, nevertheless, considerable. Its first Collector, Robert HARLEY, the Minister of Queen Anne and the first of the Harleian Earls of Oxford, is fairly entitled to rank, after COTTON, COURTEN, and SLOANE, among the virtual
or eventual co-founders of the British Museum.
Chronologically, then, Sir Robert COTTON, William
CouanN, Hans SLOANE, and Robert HARLEY, rank first
as Founders ; so long as we estimate their relative position
in accordance with the successive steps by which the
British Museum was eventually organized. But there is
another synchronism by which greater accuracy is attain
able. Although four years had elapsed between the passing—in 1753—0f ‘An Act for the purchase of the Museum or Collection of Sir Hans Sloane, and of the Harleian Collection of Jllanuscrzpts, and for providing one
general repository for the better reception and more con
venient use of the said Collections, and of the Cottonian Library and of the additions thereto,’ and the gift—in 1757
—to the Trustees of those already united Collections by
THEOLD King GEORGE THE SECOND, of the Old Royal Library of :23“, the Kings his predecessors, yet that royal collection itself mm“ by had been (in a restricted sense of the words) a Public and
Wales. It was acquired, out of his privy purse, as a