« ForrigeFortsett »
! Allow a little tranquility of mind * Or one class to meditate and dis
• cover, for the others to learn and
reduce to practice, and soon new prodigies will have demonstrated what science can effect towards repairing our misfortunes. Unfortunately it does not depend upon her to establish this condition of things, so necessary to her progress. She pursues the comets through the immensity of space, but the human heart escapes her; she laughs at the waves of the ocean, but she has no arcana to calm the restlessness of ambition! Yet it would be a great mistake to imagine her entirely indifferent to the repose of nations. In the midst of the universal opposition of the poos and the rich, that jealousy of individuals, the principal cause of the troubles of states, the jealousy of nations, almost the only source of their wars, industry, and science which produces it, are the natural mediators. They put all nations upon a footing, by surmounting the obstacles of climates; they equalize fortunes by rendering the enjoyments of life more easy of attainment; they form the only efficacious agrarian law, because it is the only just one, and because, with a facility unique, those whom it tends to lower find a real happiness in accelerating its execution. How interesting would be the picture which an eloquent writer might trace, of the influence of science on civilization! Going back to the first ages of the world, transporting himself to barbarous countries, he would show us the pretended man of nature, ruling his own family like a tyrant; treating his fellow-man, when he encounters him, as cruelly as the animals of the forests. By degrees
the first observations of nascentphilosophy soften this ferocious being, by suggesting to him the means of drawing advantage from a conquered enemy. The slave in his turn seeks in speculation a solace to his sorrows, and soon raises himself to the level of his master, by teaching him to admire the works of God, or the discoveries of genius. Force, the primitive magistracy of a rude people, disarms itself, when science, developing the arts, renders the tribute of peaceful labour more valuable than arbitrary, extortion. Property becomes free; the industrious class rises; able monarchs avail themselves of it to overturn anarchical authorities; real magistracy—that which gives sway to the eternal laws of justice, constrains all ranks to submission: left then to its natural course, wealth is divided among families, according to the proportion in which each contributes to the welfare of the rest; and, become thus the measure of their services, as well as of their importance, it naturally gives that stability, towards which society gravitates. Delightful and infallible perspective! happy period which the errors of governments and the imprudence of nations may retard, but cannot avert, in which science, wealth and industry having no longer but to assist each other, and thus mutually to gather strength, will carry the happiness of man to the point which it is privileged to reach on the earth! If it be at all permitted to invoke you, is it not on so memorable a day as this? When a prince whose knowledge renders his approbation more precious than his munificence, consecrates with the seal of his authority the ties recently contracted between all the branches of human knowledge; when by allowing us
From the Euroflean Magazine of March, 1816.
IT is a remarkable circumstance in the history of mankind, that nothing has contributed more to carry a name down to posterity, than collecting a library, from the time of the Ptolomies down to John Duke of Roxburghe-and what is equally remarkable, the fame of the collector does not seem to depend upon the fate of the library. Whether it may have been burnt at Alexandria, or dispersed by public sale in London, it equally serves to record the possessor's name in the annals of Fame.
On the continent, we have had very extraordinary instances of this circumstance, in our own times. Who would have ever heard of Mons. Gaignat, or the Duke de Valiere, if it had not been for their curious libraries? both of which were sold by that intelligent bookseller, Mons. Debure, of Paris– They both, indeed, had the advantage of excellent catalogues made of their libraries, by that gentleman, which will continue to be consulted, and quoted, till literature shall cease to exist; while the name of the collectors and possessors will be recorded in the literary calendar. Even the name of the “Grand Colbert,” as the French call him, will be longer remembered by his excellent library, than by his administration of the French finances, which he managed so well. His books were so well chosen, that his arms—a serpent—is till now a sure passport into the first libraries in Europe. Indeed, in our own country,
we have had some singular instances of a similar nature. The Harley library, though dispersed during the last century, in the worst possible manner, will, in the records of literature, for ever commemorate the name of the collector. The library of Mr. Harley will be long remembered, when the administration of Lord Oxford is forgotten. This strong predilection in favour of those who form libraries, when it is considered, may reasonably be accounted for. The trumpet of Fame, it is well known, is always in the hands of literary men; and they, in general, not being men of fortune, feel themselves much indebted to those who employ their affluence in providing a store of literary food, and, who, at the same time, permit them to partake of it. Even when the circumstances of families occasion the dispersion of such collections, the original possessor is remembered by the literati with gratitude; insomuch, that it may be truly said, that there is no road so certain to future fame, as forming a large library—and assuredly, for the collector himself, there is no road to rational pleasure equal to possessing, under his own roof, all the knowledge that human talents have hitherto communicated to mankind; which at all times may be consulted with convenience; and that convenience possesses this superiority over the most communicative friend, however intelligent, that the oracle is never out of humour; whereas the friend is liable to all the vicissitudes of health and temper “that flesh is heir to.” These circumstances taken into consideration, it is certainly remarkable, that in this country, distinguished as it is, among all the nations of the earth, both for its riches and knowledge, there should be so few fine libraries. It is true, we have some brilliant exceptions to this observation. The Earl Spencer undoubtedly stands first in the class of all collectors, in this and every other country. His lordship's library, will be an everlasting monument of his taste, knowledge, and liberality. A very magnificent descriptive catalogue of the early printed books in this library has been lately published, by Mr. Dibdin, which is, itself, a fine example of typography; and so full, that it renders any further description of it unnecessary: indeed, for first editions of the classical authors, and beautiful early specimens of that most important of all human arts, the art of printing, this library is unequalled by any library in Europe, either public or private. It is greatly to the credit of the Duke of Devonshire, to say, that, as a collector, his grace only stands second to his noble relation, Lord Spencer; but as his grace is very young, he may eventually be second to none, for his grace possesses at present the finest foundation for a capital library that exists in Europe. There are, in this country, numerous collections of books, for the private use of the proprietors, but very few for the use of the learned, at the same time. There are some individuals of moderate fortune, but of great taste, who have made beautiful collections of
books, and who have entered into
the true spirit of the luxury of literature, by collecting matchless copies of the best books. Of this class of collectors, the hon. Mr. Thomas Grenville stands pre-eminent, as a gentleman who unites exquisite taste with profound knowledge, But the man of all others, in this country, who, with limited means, has made the most wonderful exertion to collect books of learning, is the Rev. Dr.Charles Burney: his collection of Greek literature, and early MSS. of classical authors, exceeds any private library. It is delightful to see such treasures in the possession of so eminent a scholar.” Of smaller collections for pri. vate use it would be endless to speak: of public libraries in Lon. don we have none worth mentioning, except the British Museum; the library of which is undoubtedly a huge collection of books, brought together without plan or arrangement. This is indeed the very nature qf heterogeneous contributions, where bad editions and waste paper books stand next to those of the greatest rarity, and of the first utility; and, of course, the tasteful collection of that eminent literary connoisseur, Mr. Cracherode, is lost in such a mass. But utility alone should be the great object of such a library. If the gentlemen who have the care of it are well acquainted with the chain of human knowledge, they will see, by consulting their catalogue, what links they still want; and these only ought to be looked for. It is
* There has lately appeared a gentleman and a scholar, Mr. Heber, who at all public sales has been the principal purchaser of books; and if he proceeds, he will soon possess one of the most extensive private libraries in the kingdom.
by that means alone that an useful library can be collected, which does not depend upon a number of volumes, but upon a judicious selection of the best books upon every subject. This leads me to speak of a library, collected upon this principle, where selection has been the great object of pursuit. It will easily be conjectured I mean the king’s library, where that principle seems to have been carried to the height of all possible perfection, insomuch that several professional men, who have consulted this library, have left it, persuaded that their single pursuit had been the principal object of the collection. But notwithstanding the universality of this library, it has certainly some points stronger than others, particularly on the subjects of geography and history. These, no doubt, ought to constitute the principal objects of a royal library. On the first of these subjects, this library surpasses every one in Europe, geography having been a savourite pursuit with his majesty. The happy consequence of that taste has been the wonderful voyages of discovery, undertaken during his majesty’s reign, from that of captain Cook to captain Flinders. No doubt the circumstances of the times have favoured those great exertions, in forming this library. The dispersion of several large libraries, particularly those of that learned body the Jesuits, has brought into the market many rare books. Soon after this, the gentleman who has presided over the library ever since it commencement, travelled all over Europe for a considerable time, by his majesty’s command, purposely to collect curious books, and his search has
not been in vain; of which this
library will be a long and lasting proof. And it is said, that the gentlemen who have, at present, the care of the king's property, have, with a taste and liberality that do them the highest honour, ordered, that the pursuit his majesty took so much delight in shall not now be neglected—of course, the gentleman who has had the care of it for so long a period, will not neglect to add to that wonderful chain of knowledge such links as time alone can bring forth. I forgot to mention, that there are in this library, not only all the best books on every useful branch of knowledge, but also a proper share of the verts, part of a great library: consisting of the books published in the infancy of printing, particularly the first editions of the classical authors, for the use and consultation of those learned men, who mean to do honour to their country, by publishing more correct editions of those authors. These early printed books also serve to illustrate the history of the most useful of all arts, the art of printing. The other libraries of this kingdom are either in the country, or at the universities. At Cambridge, there is only one that deserves the name of a library, but here their funds does not seem to permit them to keep it up with any degree of spirit; which caused much regret in that eminent scholar, Dr. Richard Farmer, who once had the care of the public library. At Oxford, several of the colleges have collections of books, but none of them can be called libraries. Oxford, however; possesses one library, the fame of which reaches the utmost ends of the earth, and will for ever sanctify the name of the founder. Perhaps, in the annals of literature, there is not a name 2 S