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III.- THE BRITISH MUSEUM.
Of the 750,000 persons who visited the British pendage to the department of Natural History, would be Museum in 1846 ; of the 19,000 who visited it in one the germ of a grand school for English sculpture, where single day (Easter Monday 1847)—there are none the richest treasures of ancient Greece should be the who may not consistently feel proud of such an estab- daily text-books of a host of students! Above all, lishment—there are none who may not congratulate although of course he, and his Parliamentary and other themselves that the invaluable collection there depo- supporters, talked and thought about a people as the sited, is the property of one and all of us; that it is recipients of the benefits to be conferred by the new ours ; and that the contents are becoming more and establishment, it is impossible that, with a knowledge more appreciated every year by those to whom it has of the tastes and education of the middle and poorer been given, or by whom it has been purchased, and classes of the eighteenth century, they could have anfor whose benefit it has been founded.
ticipated the future crowds among which one should What a change within a dozen years! Those who with difficulty make way through the Museum Halls." have watched the progress of the Museum will well (London, No. 136.) remember the old entrance (Cut, No. 1), and the old Sloane's Museum thus procured, a fitting home had painted staircase; the giraffes on the upper landing; the to be found for it. Montague House, in Great Russellroom containing ‘Magna Charta,' in juxtaposition with street, was purchased for £10,000; and thither was a host of odds and ends to which that venerable docu- removed the Sloane collection ; together with the ment bore but little relation ; the old suite of rooms, Harleian collection of manuscripts, the Cottonian with the Sandwich Islands' curiosities, and the stuffed library of manuscripts, and the library of Major Edanimals, and the minerals; the peep, through a glass wards; all of which had been acquired by the governdoor, into the long vista of rooms where the Library was ment from different sources. From that time purkept ; the little room up stairs where the exquisite chases and donations succeeded each other rapidly. Portland Vase was placed (how humiliating the thought, George II. presented the library of printed books which that through the mad folly of one mischief-maker, this had been collected by the kings of England since fine work has been with difficulty restored from utter Henry VIII., and which included the libraries of ruin, and is at present not exhibited in the public Cranmer and Casaubon ; and he also annexed to his rooms !); the adjoining room of bronzes and coins and gift the privilege-since become a very important onemetal antiquities; and the passage on the left of the which the Royal Library had acquired in the reign of entrance, leading to the Townley and Elgin collections. Queen Anne, of being supplied with a copy of every Every fragment of the old building is now removed publication entered at Stationers' Hall. except a few out-offices which have nothing to do with Riches poured in from all quarters. During the the collection : and the visitor has some difficulty in long reign of George III, the collection received vast following in his mind the order in which the different accessions. That monarch gave a collection of pamphrooms succeed each other. Before the reader gets to lets relating to the Civil Wars of England. Sir Joseph the end of the present sheet, we hope that he will have Banks' Library of Natural History; Dr. Birch's something like a map of the building and its arrange- Library; the Musical Libraries of Dr. Burney and ments impressed on his thoughts.
Sir John Hawkins ; Garrick's collection of Plays ; A liberal act has a sort of double existence : it has and a large number of other collections-were either a joyous life of its own; and it then lives as an ex- presented or purchased. To the manuscripts forming ample and a pattern for others to follow. The mode the Sloane, Cottonian, and Harleian collections, were in which this collection has been formed illustrates, added the Royal, the Lansdowne, the Hargrave, the in a gratifying way, the good that results from a Oriental, the Arundel, the Bridgewater, and minor judicious gift, by inducing gifts from other quarters. collections. To the Natural History specimens of In 1753 Sir Hans Sloane, who had accumulated Sloane's collection, were added those which Captain a valuable collection of books, and of specimens Cook, Vancouver, and other naturalists and men of in Natural History, which had cost him £50,000, science, brought home during their exploratory voydirected that the collection should be offered to the ages ; as well as a rich collection of British Zoology government for £20,000, as the commencement of a from Colonel Montague; a collection of minerals national Museum ; and the offer was accepted. How purchased from Mr. Hatchett; and variou (it has been well remarked) bewildered and delighted gical and mineral specimens from other quarters. The would Sir Ilans be, if he could revisit the collection, Fine Arts, at the commencement of the Museum and see what has sprung from his bequest! Little operations, were but little attended to; but this has would he have anticipated “ that the books and manu- become, by degrees, one of the most valuable departscripts of which he was so proud, should have swelled ments. There were, at first, a few coins, medals, into that almost unfathomable ocean of literature which drawings, and engravings; but they were not formed we now call the Museum Library; or that his few and into a distinct collection. In 1772, however, an imnot very valuable works of art, then forming a mere ap- portant step was taken, by the purchase of Sir William Hamilton's collection of vases, including some of the the collection has been formed could have brought them finest Greek and Roman specimens. In 1801 the all into such close union. Even now the keepers of Egyptian antiquities and sculptures, the acquisition of some of the departments begin to hint that the day which had resulted from Abercromby's campaign in will come when each one of the three collectionsEgypt, were presented by George III. to the Museum. growing equally in excellence and in bulk-will require In 1805 the beautiful collection of Townley sculptures a large building to itself. It was foreseen, half a cenwas purchased ; and by that time the trustees found it tury ago, that old Montague House could not afford desirable to establish a new department in the Mu- room for the vast accumulations of which the Naseum--the department of Antiquities. In 1814 the tional Museum consisted ; and a plan was formed, Townley collection of bronzes, coins, gems, and draw- after the acquisition of the Egyptian antiquities, in ings, was secured. In 1815 the Phigaleian Sculp- 1801, for rebuilding the entire structure on a greatly tures were purchased; and in the following year the enlarged scale. Sculpture galleries were built on the Museum obtained possession of that collection, which, western side ; but it was not until 1823 that arrangein some essentials, is considered to be the finest in ments were finally determined for pulling down the the world—the Elgin marbles.
whole of the old house, and erecting a new, extensive, Useless would be the attempt to notify all the acces- and uniform structure. The works have been many, sions to the Museum since the time of George III. : many years about: the public have complained, because they meet the eye of the visitor in every room of the the riches of the Museum could not be well shown till collection. In 1823 George IV. presented the splendid the buildings were completed; and Sir Robert Smirke library of his father to the Museum. Major-General has complained, because the funds have not been so Hardwicke bequeathed a collection of stuffed birds. advanced by Parliament, as to enable him to carry out In the department of Antiquities and Fine Arts, the his architectural plans so rapidly as he could have Persepolitan sculptures; the collection of bronzes wished. But it is, at all events, satisfactory to know belonging to Mr. Payne Knight; the bronzes of Siris ; that the Museum buildings are now fast arriving at a the Babylonian antiquities--were successively added. degree of completeness which will admit of a systematic
The later we come down, the more rapid do we find classification of all the contents-a most important the accession to the collection to have become. The matter, if the collection is to be (as it ought to be) inXanthian marbles have been among the most notable structive as well as attractive. acquisitions in Queen Victoria's reign; and the law What is the best mode of seeing the British Museum? of copyright, the liberal aid of Parliament, and dona- How can a visitor so marshal his footsteps and his tions from various quarters, have added to the various thoughts, that he shall not get confused by the muldepartments so rapidly, that it is difficult to keep pace tiplicity of objects which meet his eye? We would with them. Every year the Trustees make a report answer -Classify your visits. If you live in London, to the House of Commons, in which the chief acqui- and can spare an hour, on four or five different days, sitions are enumerated, whether gifts or purchases. make four or five visits, and direct your attention, on For instance, in 1843 the Museum acquired, in addition each visit, to departments which you had purposely to a large number of other treasures, a portion of the omitted before. If you are a 'country cousin,' soXanthian marbles ; Sir Robert Ker Porter's collection journing temporarily in the giant metropolis, perhaps of drawings ; Chinese curiosities, sent over by Mr. one visit is all that you can make; but even then it Tradescant Lay; Mexican antiquities, from Captain may be worth while to pay a little attention beforehand Nepean; and African curiosities from the conductors to what you are about to see, in order that you may of the Niger expedition. In 1844 the curious Chinese select those departments which are most likely to bell, and a large addition of Xanthian sculptures, interest you. Many persons feel, that when they leave reached the Museum. In 1845, fossil animals from the Museum after a visit of two or three hours, their India and America ; mammalia and birds from Nepaul; thoughts are so filled with a chaos of minerals, stuffed a collection of reptiles found during the expedition of monkeys, Greek statues, beautiful shells, Hindoo idols, the 'Erebus' and the “Terror;' the two fine models vases, humming-birds, Egyptian mummies, monstrous of the Parthenon, by Mr. Lucas; and many minor fossil animals, and Polynesian trinkets, that it is difficult objects, were added. In 1846 the bas-relief of the to retain a clear idea of any of them. This is a pity. Boudrum Mausoleum ; Mr. Stuart's collection of vases A visit to a part of the collection at one time is much and terra-cottas; some Babylonian gems; some Anglo- more profitable than a vague attempt to see everything; Roman antiquities; and some very extensive collec- and we will endeavour to mark out a course for those tions in Natural History-were acquired.
who are in a position to make a succession of visits. It is thus that this great national collection has gone on, growing and growing year after year. There are, The First Visit..A GENERAL GLANCE. in fact, three institutions here combined in one-a National Library; a National Gallery; and a National We will here tell the reader a little about what he hi useum :-the three departments of Literature, Fine can not see, as well as many things which he will do Arts
, and Natural History, being so completely dis- well to see with his own eyes. tinct, that nothing but the circumstances under which The buildings forming the new British Museum are
arranged in a hollow square, opposite the four points an average, about two hundred in the course of a day; of the compass. The southern or Russell-street front they are furnished with tables, chairs, desks, pens, and is the principal one, and presents to view an imposing | ink, together with catalogues, and other facilities for columnar façade, of the Ionic order. (Cut, No. 2.) obtaining the books which they wish to read; but no Critics differ a good deal in opinion as to the archi- books are allowed to be taken out of the building. tectural merits of this front; but with such criticisms At the north-west angle of the building, and in one we have not here to do. In the centre is a portico or two other parts, are collections which are not thrown formed of a double range of columns, eight in each open to the public generally. Among these are the range; on either side of this is a smaller range of three print-rooms, where a valuable collection of engravings columns; and at the east and west angles are pro- is deposited. Other rooms are for the Banksian or jecting wings, also surrounded by columns; so that botanical collection : an assemblage of books and spethe columns of the whole front are upwards of forty in cimens relating to botany. Coins, gems, and other number. At the extreme west end is a detached build- small but valuable objects, are also placed in rooms to ing, and there will be another one at the east end, which access can be obtained only by special introducnear the junction of Russell and Montague streets : tion. The exclusion, in most if not in all cases, is these are to be dwelling-houses and offices for the determined on sufficient grounds; either because the librarians and chief officers of the establishment. objects are really not very interesting to look at by
Let us fancy we can have a bird's-eye view of the general visitors, or because any injury or derangewhole building, before we look at the interior. The ment of small but valuable articles would be of serious central square court measures about three hundred and detriment to those who resort to them for purposes of twenty feet by two hundred and forty. (Cut, No. 3.) study. There are four stone fronts to the four sides of the It may be rather tormenting for the visitor to be building, looking into this court, all having more or thus told of a number of fine things which he must less of an architectural character. The buildings at not have a peep at; but he meets with ample recomthe centre of each side project more than those nearer pense when he considers how vast is the assemblage the corners ;
the western side the Phigaleian to which free access is afforded him. Whether he moves and Elgin Saloons project far beyond any rooms on the in the ranks of the rich and influential, or wears a humble other three sides.
fustian jacket, he finds this free ingress equally afforded : There are two stories of galleries and rooms round | all that he has to do is to show the common sense and the greater part of the building, to some of which the the common justice of respecting and leaving unharmed general public are not admitted. For instance, all and untouched the things which he sees. If a higher the ground-floor between the portico entrance and the principle than the miserable one of selfishness be wantsouth-east angle, is occupied as a depository for manu- ing, let him at least consider that he has a share in scripts, and as apartments for receiving, sorting, and the property ; and that, in protecting what belongs to reading manuscripts. The ground-floor of the greater the nation, he is protecting what, in part, belongs to part of the east side is occupied by the King's library, himself. a magnificent apartment, three hundred feet long. The Now let us walk through the rooms, looking at the public used, a few years ago, to be admitted to this general arrangements, but not pausing to closely exalibrary, but the custom is now discontinued ; and if any mine any of the objects. one should complain of this exclusion, we would beg The door in the centre of the portico gives entrance him to consider, that looking merely at the backs of to the new hall, or vestibule, first opened to the publie books is not very instructive; while the noise, occa- in April of the present year. This is a fine large sioned by an influx of visitors would inevitably disturb apartment, worthy of the building to which it gives the librarians and students who are engaged there. The access—whether or not it be true, as some critics say, Museum visitor must, therefore, be content with know that the Doric massiveness of the interior jars with the ing that this room is a very fine one, and supplied with Ionic lightness of the exterior. On the right are the a noble collection of books. The entire ground-floor two statues of Sir Joseph Banks and Shakspere, on of the north side (nearest to Montague-place) is closed either side of a door leading to the Manuscript defrom general visitors, being devoted to literature and partment; and on the left is the statue of the Hon. study. There are two large reading-rooms, together Mrs. Damer, the lady sculptor, who left the attractions about a hundred and twenty feet in length, and a and fascinations of gay life for the mallet and chisel. library for books, extending two hundred feet. All In front is a glazed door, which will by and by give the books presented by George IV. are deposited in an opening to the central quadrangle, the buildings the King's library, just noticed; but the much larger on three sides of which can be well seen from this general library, derived from various sources, is depo- point. The hall is lofty, and the ceiling is richly sited in the rooms in this northern range. The fre- painted in encaustic colours, formed into square comquenters of the reading-rooms are students, draughts-partments of divers tints. On the left, close to the men, and literary persons, whose admission, upon the front wall of the building, is a passage leading to the most liberal scale, is regulated only by letters of intro- various sculpture galleries ; and northward of this is duction from two housekeepers, and who number, on the grand staircase,-a noble feature of the building.
It may be a matter of taste whether the colours of this to contain, ultimately, the greater part of the Townley staircase harmonize well; or it may be objected that and Xanthian marbles, many of which are already the mixture of real marble and painted imitative marble placed there. The Xanthian room, of which only a on the walls is not judicious; but there is quite enough few imperfect glances can yet be obtained, is pretty to excite admiration. The ascent of nearly seventy nearly at the south-west angle of the building; and stone stairs--half of them westward and then the from thence the visitor returns along the lower story other half eastward, the elegant balustrade, and the of the south side to the Entrance Hall, whence he had encaustic work of the ceiling, come with freshness and set out. welcome upon the eyes of those who for many years
Those who have watched from year
prohave been accustomed to the dingy entrances to the gress of the Museum, will find illustrated-in the Museum. (Cut, No. 4.)
following details contained in the last Report of the Arrived at the top of the stairs, we see before Trustees to the House of Commons (March, 1847,)— us a range of rooms extending eastward along the the mode in which parts of the collection are from building. By the side of the upper part of the stair- time to time removed, in order to carry on the concase, over the passage leading to the sculptures, is struction of the new building :-“During the last year an Antiquarian or 'Ethnographical' room, of which the Ethnographical collection has been in great part we shall speak anon. The room at the head of the arranged; but its completion has been interrupted by stairs, and immediately over the entrance hall, is the necessity of appropriating for the present a portion devoted to Zoology, and has in its centre a giraffe, of the Gallery to the exhibition of British Antiquities, whose long neck reaches nearly to the ceiling. Beyond until the Gallery destined for such objects shall have this room, towards the east are two others, devoted been built. The Townley Gallery has been taken like it to Zoological specimens. The Mammalia down, and the sculptures which it contained have been Saloon' forms the upper story of the south-east angle temporarily placed in the gallery intended for the larger of the Museum ; and from thence proceed a magnificent and heavier objects of national antiquities, until the suite of rooms, called the ' Eastern Zoological Gallery,' Townley Gallery shall have been rebuilt. The extending along the whole eastern side of the building Xanthian Gallery has been completed, and considerafrom north to south, and filled with specimens illus- ble progress has been made in fixing and arranging trating the natural history of animals. Over the wall. the various objects which it is destined to contain ; cases of this gallery are hung a series of portraits, but this labour is not yet entirely concluded.” belonging to the Museum, but rather out of place in It is always worth while to pay a little attention to their present position. Arrived at the north-east angle the topography of a large building like this ; for an of the building, we find a double range of galleries appreciation of the contents is likely to be aided by a almost as beautiful as the former : they are side by clear idea of the relative position of the rooms which side, and together occupy the upper floor of the whole contain them. If the visitor, therefore, will bear in northern side of the Museum, from end to end. One mind that, after having ascended the grand staircase, of these ranges is called the Northern Zoological he traverses the upper floor or story of the eastern Gallery,' and the other the · Mineralogical Gallery,' half of the south side, the whole of the cast and north devoted to purposes indicated by these names.
sides, and half the west side, that he then descends the At the north-west angle we find a staircase leading north-west staircase, and lastly traverses the lower down to the lower story; but before descending this, story of the west side, and half the south side-if he we will turn round to the left, and glance through a will take note of this, he will have a pretty clear notion range of rooms leading along the west side of the of the region which is to be traversed in his pursuit building, and devoted to the reception of Egyptian and after knowledge and amusement. He will also be Etruscan antiquities. There are portions of this west
able to mark out, on his mental map, those portions side not yet open to the public. The staircase con- of the building which are devoted to study, and are ducts the visitor down to an ante-room at the northern not open to general visitors. But he must be content extremity of the great Egyptian gallery ; from which to remain in ignorance for the present of the treasures ante-room proceeds an entrance to another smaller stored away in the vaults beneath the Museum. , PackEgyptian room, and also doors leading to the library, ing-cases out of number are there deposited, waiting not publicly open. Traversing the Egyptian Gallery,' until room is found for the sculptures, antiquities, and southward, we come to a kind of large central saloon, other specimens which they contain. whose arrangement is not yet settled, and whose floor and walls are covered with miscellaneous sculptures, The Second Visit.-Natural History COLLECTION. waiting for future disposition. Westward and projecting from this range is the Phigaleian sculpture room, We have ventured to carve out for the reader such and beyond this the Elgin saloon, where the priceless a mode of arranging his visits, that his first spare hour treasures from the Parthenon are placed.'
is to be devoted to a general glance at the whole colAll the rooms from the Egyptian saloon back to the lection, with a view to the relative bearings of one entrance are either unfinished, or the specimens 'in part on another, and to a slight appreciation of the them only partially arranged; but they are destined intellectual feast which is prepared for him in future