Oldalképek
PDF

PROPER
CHARACTER
IST1C9 or A

National
Library For

Book Hi, but a man of wide sympathies, and of catholic tastes in

Ii'istort literature. He was able himself to enjoy Shakespeare,

Mutmtm no* less thoroughly than he was able, by his critical acumen,

Under Sir to increase other men's enioyment of Ariosto and of Dante.

n. Ellis. •> J

S,ha In October, 1837, he wrote thus:—' With respect to the

Pajciizi'. pUrcbase of books, Mr. Panizzi bees to lay before the

Report, In A ' o J

October, Trustees the general principles by which he will be guided, if not otherwise directed, in endeavouring to answer the expectations and wishes of the Trustees and of the Public in this respect. First, the attention of the Keeper of this Great emphatically British Library ought to be directed, most particularly, to British works, and to works relating to the British Empire; its religious, political, and literary, as well as scientific history; its laws, institutions, description, commerce, arts, &c. The rarer and more expensive a work of this description is, the more indefatigable* efforts ought to be made to secure it for the Library. Secondly, the old and rare, as well as the critical, editions of ancient Classics, ought never to be sought for in vain in this Collection. Nor ought good comments, as also the best translations into modern languages, to be wanting. Thirdly, with respect to foreign literature, arts, and sciences, the Library ought to possess the best editions of standard works for critical purposes or for use. The Public have, moreover, a right to find, in their National Library, heavy as well as expensive foreign works, such as Literary Journals; Transactions of Societies; large Collections, historical or otherwise; complete series of Newspapers; Collections of Laws, and their best interpreters.' We have, in this brief passage, the germ

* In Minutes of Evidence (page 596) printed erroneously 'reasonable.' To the brief extract, for which alone I can here afford space, were appended, in the original Report, many pertinent amplifications and illustrations. Some of these are given in the Minutes of Evidence above referred to.

PEDIMENTS
IN THE WAT
OT IHPEOVE-
HENT.

of the admirable Report on the National Library, written Book Hi, on a far more extended scale, which was afterwards laid Hi'tort before the Government, and, ultimately, before Parliament.

If this Report failed to lead, immediately (or, indeed, "ironsTM

. 1 * 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. Thkim

It is hard to realise, in 1870, how entirely the effort 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 wa3 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 Mitm*m large aspirations for the improvement of the Museum which Htlh* k°*n men, severally and 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 drearier, 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 Bookiii, qualities, or to the true heart, of the man himself. To Huron strangers, they often gave a most inaccurate idea of his Mutmuk faculties and character. Under the outward guise of a ys°eRSl1

D II. 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. Pamzzi'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; not even by an Audiffredi, a Van-praet, or a Magliabechi.

Mr. Watts' earliest schoolfellows had marvelled at his Itmoui»tic

PIP '• ■ T 1 ATTAIN

iaculty for acquiring with great rapidity such a degree of ^htso* familiarity with foreign tongues, as gave him an amply Wait" sufficient master-key to their several literatures. When

chT'iL1 ^ very youno> ne showed a scholarly appreciation of the H.story right methods of setting to work. He studied languages

OF THE •

Hvnoa m groups—giving his whole mind to one group at a time, H"ell«tm and then 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 Watts 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. Baber, 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. Hhlistsot He began with making lists of Russian books that were DE81DE- 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

« ElőzőTovább »