firmness of will than, by pressing his authority, wound the Book III,

feelings of well-intentioned but irritable subordinates. No H«tom one could receive from him a merited reproof—I speak

from personal experience—without perceiving that the duty »SI»,SB

, H. Ellis.

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 man 'for asw) 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 the5t0rt Antiquaries. The late Sir Harris Nicolas would scarcely °»TH1tUSS

1 . . . ■'at Pomard.

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.

Book Hi, In the course of the revolutionary convulsions in France, Bihobt a great body of historical documents had been abstracted oFTHit from the famous old Castle of Blois. Eventually, as years

Museum »

Under Sik passed on, they found their way into the country-seat, at Pomard, of the Baron de Joursan Vault, and with them were amalgamated an extensive collection of old family papers, many books on genealogy, and some choice illuminated missals.

An English gentleman long resident in France had formed the acquaintance of the Baron de Joursanvault, and in the course of conversation came to hear of the existence of these historical treasures. He also perceived that their owner had little taste for them, or ability to profit by their contents. Sir Thomas Elmsley Croft probed his French friend on the subject of parting with them. The Baron lent a willing ear, and, to whet his interlocutor's appetite, told him that a great many of the manuscripts related to the history of the English rule in France. Sir Thomas then apprised an English friend, famous for his love of old MSS., of the existence of the hoards, and of the certainty that the Baron who owned them would greatly prefer a few rouleaux of English gold to a whole castle-full of the most precious parchments that ever charmed the longing eyes of a Jonathan Oldbuck—or a Harris Nicolas.

Sir Harris, directly he received this piece of news from Paris, passed it on to his friend the late Lord Canterbury, then Speaker, who, in turn, communicated the information to Sir H. Ellis, for the use of the Trustees. Ellis was sent to France—whither indeed he had, just at that moment, arranged to go, in order to spend part of his holidays in Paris, according to his frequent custom.

He reached Pomard (two hundred and fifty miles from MS


Paris) in September, 1829, and found a vast body of Bookiii, charters which had formed the archives of the mediaeval IIlSTOKY Earls of Blois, together with many heraldic and genealogical M""tm manuscripts chiefly relating to Trench families. But he found hardly any manuscripts which bore, directly, upon English history or affairs—the immediate object, it must be remembered, of the mission given him by the Trustees.

Immediately on his return to Paris, Sir Henry wrote si»Hnm

"J Ellis's

thus to the Archbishop of Canterbury :—' The Collection REPORT ON is indeed a most extraordinary one of its kind, and would Historical be a treasure in the stores of the British Museum, or of any other public Collection, though, perhaps, for a reason which will presently appear, some of the Trustees may think a public library of France would be its most appropriate repository. It is placed in two attics of the Chateau, 18wof considerable area—and I should say sixteen feet in height—in cartons (or paste-board boxes), each two feet in length by one in depth and width. Each carton contains some hundreds of charters, at least whenever I examined them, and I made here and there my comparison with the catalogue of from twenty to thirty cartons, all answering to the catalogue and to the successive dates upon the outside of the boxes. In one room there were above

a hundred boxes piled up to the ceiling, the lower ones of which, where I could get at them, were full of instruments arranged as I have described. I counted also, in the same room, near a hundred and fifty bundles, all of single articles, partly piled up for want of room, and placed upon the floors. In the second room I counted a hundred and forty-nine cartons piled up like the former, and no ladder in the house to get at them. I did what I could upon a pair of steps made of two thin boards fastened to two other upright boards, but I had not even a safe pair of steps. Many of

Book III,
Chap. II.
or THE

Under Sir
H. Emm.

Paucity or


the cartons in the second room contained collections of a comparatively recent date, apparently the manuscripts of the Baron's father. Some of these were terriers of lands, others were marked "Pays Etrangers" "Monmnens Gdnealogiques," "Pieces Historiques;" "Parlement /' "Hisloire de VEglise!'

'Of the great collection of charters (and it appeared to me to be larger than all the collection of charters at present in the British Museum put together), I am bound to say that I believe them to have formed almost the entire muniments of the Earls of Blois, containing whatever related to their concern in the wars of Europe in the middle ages, to their praedial possessions, their granting out of property and privileges, sales, feudal or public acts, quittances of money for military services, letters patents, expenses of household, and every act, material or immaterial, likely to be found in the archives of one of the greatest houses of England.

'I looked in vain, however, for anything illustrative of English history, except in a single bundle, tied in paper, which seemed unconnected with the cartons, and was not, as far as I could find, in any of the MS. catalogues. This bundle was entitled, in a modern hand, "Documens relatifs a l'occupation de la France par les Anglais, 1400." It consists of about one hundred vellum instruments, one or two, or perhaps more, so far in the form of letters that they were official announcements; such as the Duke of Orleans in England in 1437, that he had obtained safe conducts for his Chancellor and Premier Ecuyer d'ecurie. Amongst these are various orders of payment and acquittances for money, and several relate to Charles, Duke of Orleans, whilst prisoner in England after the fight of Agincourt. There is a payment to the Earl of Suffolk; another to persons fighting against the English; a payment for the Book in, deliverance of the Due (i'angouleme whilst a prisoner in Hhtoet England in 1412; various orders of John, Duke of Bed- M„tmm Ford, the Bastard of Salisbury, the Duke of Exeter, &c, to persons in the care of military posts under them; the Duke of Bedford concerning musters; Henry The Fifth's acquittance to the parishioners of certain villages for payments on account of the war; various grants of the same King for services in the wars; a grant to Sir William Bourchier of the estates of the Earl of En, dated at Mantes in his seventh year; and an order for a confirmation to be made out of the different grants of the Kings of England and Dukes.pf Normandy to the House of Lepers at Dieppe.'

When Sir Henry Ellis had completed at Pomard that rough examination of the Collection which he thus described on his return to Paris, his first inquiry of the owner was, of course, about price. M. de Joursanvaclt was embarrassed. To Sir Thomas Croft he had already said that he hoped to get sixty thousand francs. Ellis had noticed, as the Baron drove him from Beaune into the court-yard of the old chateau, that its appearance denoted wealth in past rather than in present days, but he could hardly have been prepared for the effect of altered circumstances in turning a gentleman into a chapman. In the evening the anticipated sixty thousand francs had grown into a hundred and ten thousand. Nor was this the only demand. The Duke of Wellington must use his credit at Paris to transform the Baron into a Count (without any stipulation for an entailed estate by way of ' majorat'); and if the task should be beyond the powers even of the conqueror of Napoleon, then M. de Joursanvaolt was to receive, from the English Government, authority to import

« ElőzőTovább »