Imatges de pÓgina

plied him with all sorts of rare and curious objects; being fully per, suaded that they would be not only acceptable, but that the receipt of them would be immediately acknowledged with gratitude.

At the age of fourscore, Sir Hans Sloane resigned the presidency of the Royal Society, when he was publicly thanked for the emi. nent services he had rendered to the society, and a request was made that his name might remain enrolled among the members as long as he should live. But the most extraordinary part of the life of this eminent man is the removal, at the age of eighty-one, of his museum and library from Great Russel-street, Bloomsbury, (a place to which it was so soon destined to return), to his new habitation, the “Manor House,” at Chelsea. The few gifted persons who arrive at this octogenarian distinction, we believe, think only of re. moving to the domus ultima; not so Sir Hans Sloane: with an energy not belonging to his years, he set about transporting this immense collection of books, DISS., and curiosities, to Chelsea. On the 12th of May, 1741, he commenced his residence there, and retired to to enjoy, in tranquillity, the remainder of a well-spent life. He did not, however, hermit-like, seek that solitude which excludes the blandishments of society—the only charm that, at this period of life, binds us to existence. Here, as he had done in London, he received the visits of persons of distinction, of learned foreigners, and even of the royal family, who sometimes did him that honour. An in. teresting account of one of these royal visits, in the year 1748, is given by a contemporary writer, and, as it affords the only record of the state of Sir Hans's museum at that time, we shall make no apology for presenting some portion of it to our readers. Mortimer, secretary to the Royal Society, conducted the Prince and Princess of Wales into the room where Sir Hans was sitting, being ancient and infirm. The Prince took a chair, and sat down by the good old gentleman sometime, when he expressed the greatest esteem and value for him personally, and how much the learned world was obliged to him for having collected such a vast library of curious books, and such immense treasures of the valuable and instructive productions of nature and art. Sir Hans's house* forms a square of above one hundred feet each side, inclosing a court; and three front rooms had tables set along the middle, which were spread over with drawers filled with all sorts of precious stones in their

This house was built by King Henry VIII., and a print of it forms the frontispiece to Mr. Faulkner's History of Chelsea. It was pulled dow after Sir Hans's death, and a row of new houses was standing upon the ancient site in the year 1763.-Biographia Britannica, art. Sloane.

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natural beds, or state as they are found in the earth. Here the most magnificent vessels of cornelian, onyx, sardonyx, and jasper, delighted the eye. When their royal highnesses had viewed one room, and went into another, the scene was shifted; for when they returned the same tables were covered, for a second course, with all sorts of jewels, polished and set after the modern fashion, or with engraved gems ; for the third course, the tables were spread with gold and silver ores, with the most precious and remarkable ornaments used in the habits of man, from Siberia to the Cape of Good Hope, from Japan to Peru ;t and with both ancient and modern coins, and medals in gold and silver, the lasting monuments of historical facts: as those of a Pope Gregory XIII., recording, on a silver medal, his blind zeal for religion, in perpetuating thereon the massacre of the protestants in France; as did Charles IX., the then reigning king in that country. Here may be seen the coins of a king of England crowned at Paris; a medal, representing France and Spain striving which should first pay their obeisance to Britannia; the happy deliverance of Britain by the arrival of King William ; the glorious exploits of a Duke of Marlborough, and the happy arrival of the present illustrious royal family amongst us.

The gallery, one hundred and ten feet in length, presented a most surprising prospect; the most beautiful corals, crystals, and figured stones, and feathers of birds vying with gems; here the remains of the antediluvian world excited the awful idea of that great catastrophe, so many evident testimonies of the truth of Moses's history. Then a noble vista presented itself filled with books ; among these many hundred volumes of dried plants ; a roum full of choice and valuable MSS. ; the noble present sent by the French king to Sir Hans of his collection of paintings, medals, statues, palaces, &c., in twenty-five large atlas volumes, besides other things too many to mention here. Below stairs, some rooms are filled with the curious and venerable antiquities of Egypt, Greece, Etruria, Rome, Britain, and even America; others with large animals preserved in the skin, the great saloon lined, on every side, with bottles filled with spirits, containing various animals. The halls are adorned with the horns of divers creatures, and with weapons of different countries; among

+ This collection formed what is now called an Ethnographical Museum, comprising materials for the study of the customs and modes of life of the various branches of the human race; such as is to be found at St. Petersburgh, in Holland, and various other places, and such as we think might form a separate department, with a curator, in our own National Museum.

which it appears that the Mayalese, and not our most Christian neighbours the French, had the honour of inventing that butcherly weapon, the bayonet. Fifty volumes in folio would scarce suffice to contain a detail of this immense museum, consisting of above two hundred thousand articles. The prince expressed the great pleasure it gave him to see so magnificent a collection in England, esteeming it an ornament to the nation ; and expressed his sentiments how much it must conduce to the benefit of learning, and how great an honour will redound to Britain, to have it established for public use to the latest posterity."*

Although Sir Hans Sloane had now for some time declined practice as a physician, he never refused to give advice to any one, however high his rank, or humble his station in society. During his retirement, also, he continued to promulgate such medical discoveries as he deemed important; and did not, like many of his bre. thren, make a mystery of his profession. His encouragement of learned men, whether native or foreign, commands our admiration. Among the latter may be named Job Ben Solomon, son of the Mohammedan King of Banda, who, after having been sold as a slave, and suffered many reverses of fortune, found his way to England, where his talents, dignified air, and amenity of character procured him friends, and among the rest Sir Hans Sloane, who employed him for a considerable time in translating several Arabic MSS. His memory was so retentive that, it is said, he could repeat the whole of the Koran by heart. Sir Hans Sloane's patronage of artists is equally worthy of remark. He employed the celebrated natural history painter, George Edwards, for a great number of years, in drawing miniature figures of animals after nature, to increase his fine collection of drawings, on the same subject, by other masters. He also paid five guineas a leaf to M. Robert, a celebrated French artist, for drawings of plants, animals, shells, &c., which are considered to be among the richest and most accurate of any period. To those must be added two volumes on vellum, from the pencil of Madame Merian.

During Sir Hans Sloane's retirement at Chelsea, George Ed. wards was accustomed to visit him every week, to divert him for an hour or two with the common news of the town, and with any particulars that might have happened amongst his acquaintance of the Royal Society, or other scientific persons, and seldom missed drinking coffee with him on a Saturday. The old baronet was so

Gentleman's Magazine, 1748, vol. xviii., p. 301, 2.

Sir Hans Sloane was easy and engaging in his manners; his conversation cheerful and obliging. Nothing could exceed his courtesy to foreigners; he was always ready, at the shortest notice, to exhibit and explain to them such objects in his museum as they wished to examine. Once a week he kept open house for persons of all ranks, particularly for his brethren of the Royal Society. His death was a severe loss to the poor, to whom he was, in every sense of the word, a liberal benefactor. He was a governor of every hospital in and near London ; to each he gave £100. in his life-time, and considerable sums at his death. Whatever proposal had for its object the "public good,” commanded his most zealous exertions. He promoted, as much as possible, the establishment of a colony in Georgia, in 1732: seven years afterwards, he was instrumental in establishing the Foundling Hospital, and formed the plan for bringing up the children, which proved the best that could be devised. Sir Hans Sloane was the first who introduced into England the general use of bark, which he applied, successfully, to the cure of many diseases : he also gave a sanction to the practice of inoculation. But the share he had in the foundation of the British Museum will most effectually preserve his name from oblivion. Having, with great labour and expense, during the course of a long life, collected a rich cabinet of medals, objects of natural history, &c., and a valua ble library of printed books and MSS., he bequeathed the whole to the public, on condition that the sum of £20,000. should be paid to his executors for the benefit of his family ; but which, according to his own declaration in a codicil to his will, made a short time before he died, was not a fourth part of the then intrinsic value of his museum. In the year 1753, an act of parliament was passed, for the purchase of this and other collections, and the museum was opened to the public on the 15th of January, 1759.

The persons appointed to conduct the affairs of this national insti. tution, were styled official, family, and elected trustees. The latter, fifteen in number, chosen by the two former classes of trustees, (composed of the great officers of state and other distinguished individuals), were then selected for their eminence in literature, science, and art. But this laudable custom, with some exceptions, gradually fell into desuetude, and rank and wealth appear to have taken the place of literature and science. To remedy the evils supposed to have resulted from this practice, with a view to extend the public utility of the museum and to adapt it to the present advanced state of science and learning, an inquiry was instituted by Parliament, during the last session ; and the committee have but

very recently concluded their valuable labours. A most important volume of evidence has been already printed; and another, equal, if not superior, in interest, may be expected in the course of three or four months. In the mean time, we have much gratification in laying before our readers the following valuable Parliamentary Paper, presented to the House on the 2nd of August, by Sir Robert Peel :

“At a Committee of the Trustees of the British Museum, July 20th, 1836, the resolutions passed by the select committee of the House of Commons, appointed to inquire into the affairs of the Museum, as printed in the Votes of the 14th instant, were read to the following effect:

“1. That the great accessions which have been made of late to the collections of the British Museum, and the increasing interest taken in them by the public, render it expedient to revise the Establishment of the Institution, with a view to place it upon a scale more commensurate with, and better adapted to, the present state and future prospects of the Museum.

“2. That this committee do not recommend any interference with the family trustees, who hold their offices under Acts of Parliament, being of the nature of national compacts.

3. That though the number of official trustees may appear unnecessarily large, and though practically most of them rarely, if ever, attend, yet no inconvenience has been alleged to have risen from the number; and the committee are aware that there may be some advantage in retaining in the hands of Government, a certain influence over the affairs of the Museum, which may be exercised on special occasions ; yet if any Act of the Legislature should ultimately be found necessary, a reduction in the number of this class of trustees might not be unadvisable.

4. That with regard to the existing elected trustees, the committee think it very desirable that the trustees should take steps to ascertain whether some of those whose attendance has been the most infrequent, might not be willing to resign their trusteeships ; that, in future, it be understood, that any trustee hereafter to be elected, not giving personal attendance at the Museum, for a period to be fixed, is expected to resign his trusteeship; being, however, re-eligible upon any future vacancy.

5. That in filling up vacancies, it would be desirable that the electing trustees should not in future lose sight of the fact, that an opportunity is thus afforded them of occasionally conferring a mark of distinction upon men of eminence in literature, science, and art.

6. That the extension of the collections which has taken place, and the still greater extension which may be looked for, render a further division of departments necessary ; and that at the head of each department there be placed a keeper, who shall be responsible for the arrangement, proper condition, and safe custody of the collection committed to his care.

7. That it is desirable that the heads of each department shall meet once in three months, for the purpose of consulting with reference to any matters of detail relating to the internal arrangements of the Museum, which they may desire jointly to submit to the trustees in writing.


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