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- Studies from Court and Cloister - 61/61 -


account for the great celebrity it attained within a comparatively short time of its foundation. Wanley was careful to enter into his Diary the names of visitors, and any interesting details connected with them, and their motives for an inspection. On the 15th January 1719/20 he observed:--

"Dr.Fiddes came, and communicated to me his intention of writing the life of Cardinal Wolsey at large; and desired me to transcribe for him all such materials in this library as I should find for his purpose. I showed him divers things here, and gave him notice of many others in the Cottonian library, etc., but as to transcribing for him, begged his excuse, etc."

On the 22nd December 1721,

"Mr. Bowles, the Bodleian library-keeper, came, and I spent most of the time showing him some of the rarities here, to his great wonder and satisfaction."

And on the 28th

"Mr. Bowles came and saw more of the rarities here."

Two more visits from Mr. Bowles are chronicled, when he saw "yet more of the curious books, papers, and parchments here"; and shortly after Wanley wrote, "many come and tarry long." A visit from David Casley, keeper of the Cottonian and Royal libraries, on the 4th November 1725, is suggestive of a certain amount of friction between the two rival librarians. It is nearly the last entry in Wanley's record:--

"Mr. Casley came to collate my Lord's MSS. of Titus Livius for Mr. D'Orville, by my Lord's order. I am civil to him, but when just now he offered me a South Sea bond as security to let him carry one of the said MSS. home to collate it there, I would by no means hearken to such a proposal."

Perhaps Wanley would have regarded him with still greater suspicion if he had known that Casley was to be his successor in cataloguing the MSS. which he kept with so jealous a care. The talents of the two men were very different, as the catalogue itself shows. That part of it for which Wanley was responsible contains a description and an abstract of each manuscript. Casley, whose knowledge of the age of manuscripts has never been surpassed, contented himself with fixing their dates without any reference to their contents.

The work of building up the library does not seem to have flagged or deteriorated after Wanley's death. The search for precious MSS. was still actively carried on, and copies of a large collection of original, royal, and other letters and State Papers in the Lansdowne library furnish us with an example of Lord Oxford's unabated zeal in the pursuit of books. Appended to these papers is a note written on the first leaf by Mr. J. West, and dated 2nd May 1742:--

"Mem. I went with Edward, Earl of Oxford, to view these MSS. at a barber's shop next door to the Bull Head Tavern, in Lincoln's Inn Fields, when we were carried up two pair of stairs, and an old woman asked 300 pounds for the MSS., which was thought exorbitant, but which would have been given, if she would have declared any lawful title to us as owner of them."

After Casley, Hocker, deputy-keeper of the records in the Tower, undertook to continue the catalogue, but only completed it as far as the number 7355. When the collection was brought to the British Museum, after the death of the second Lord Oxford, Dr. Brown, Professor of Arabic at Oxford, and Dr. Kennicott, Fellow of Exeter College, added titles to such of the Arabic and Hebrew MSS. as needed them. Gomez, a learned Jew, was employed to do the same for the rabbinical books that were without titles. In 1800 the Rev. Robert Nares was appointed to continue and revise the catalogue. In a letter to Bishop Percy, dated British Museum, 19th January 1801, Nares wrote:--

"I am just now deep in old MSS., correcting all that part of the Harleian catalogue which was left unfinished by Humphrey Wanley, and very imperfectly executed by Mr. Casley."

The work done by Nares was supplemented by Stebbing Shaw, and Douce. The Rev. T. Hartwell Horne added a series of indexes, and published the catalogue in 1812.*

* Nichol's Literary Illustrations, vol. vii., p. 591.

On the death of Edward, Earl of Oxford, in 1741, his widow,* who is described as a "dull, worthy woman," cared to retain few of her husband's treasures. His various curiosities were sold by auction; his printed books, pamphlets, and engravings were disposed of to Thomas Osborne, a bookseller of Gray's Inn, for 13,000 pounds--several thousand pounds less than the cost of their bindings. A selection of scarce pamphlets found in the library was made by Oldys, and printed in 8 volumes, in 1746, under the title of the "Harleian Miscellany." Dr. Samuel Johnson wrote a preface to this work. The best edition of the "Harleian Miscellany" is that of Thomas Park, in 10 volumes, published between 1808-13.

* She was Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles, only daughter of John, fourth Earl of Clare, created Duke of Newcastle.

There still remained the precious manuscripts, and it had been the wish of Lord Oxford that books so carefully collected might not be dispersed. In accordance with this wish, Lady Oxford sold them to the nation in 1753 for the inconsiderable sum of 10,000 pounds. They then consisted of 7639 volumes, besides 14,236 original rolls, charters, deeds, and other documents, and these were removed to the British Museum, where they found a safe and suitable resting-place.

But although fortunately the Harleian MSS. have been preserved from the fate of so many choice volumes in the Cottonian library, they have suffered to some extent from the carelessness or dishonesty of borrowers. The second Lord Oxford was generous to a fault in lending, with the inevitable result. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the only one of his literary friends whom Lady Oxford tolerated,* wrote the following letter to her husband from Avignon in 1745, at the time when probably, the MSS. having been removed to the British Museum, attention was directed to the fact that some were missing:--

"I perfectly remember carrying back the manuscript you mention, and delivering it to Lord Oxford. I never failed returning to himself all the books he lent me. It is true I showed it to the Duchess of Montague, but we read it together, and I did not even leave it with her. I am not surprised in that vast quantity of manuscripts, some should be lost or mislaid, particularly knowing Lord Oxford to be careless of them, easily lending and as easily forgetting he had done it. I remember I carried him once one very finely illuminated that when I delivered he did not recollect he had lent it to me, though it was but a few days before. Wherever this is, I think you had need be in no pain about it."**

* "It is a common remark that people of brilliant parts often have no objection to relax or REST their understandings in the society of those whose intellects are a little more obtuse. Here was an instance: the gods never made anybody less poetical than Lady Oxford; and yet Lady Mary Wortley, though in general not over tolerant to her inferior's incapacity, appears upon the whole to have loved nobody so well. And there was an exception equally striking in her favour; for Lady Oxford, heartily detesting most of the wits who surrounded her husband, yet admired Lady Mary with all her might-pretty much as the parish clerk reverences the rector for his Greek and Hebrew. Lady Bute confessed that she sometimes got into sad disgrace by exclaiming, 'Dear mama! how can you be so fond of that stupid woman?' which never failed to bring upon her a sharp reprimand and a lecture against rash judgments, ending with 'Lady Oxford is not shining, but she has much more in her than such giddy things as you and your companions can discern."*-- The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, edited by her great-grandson, Lord Whamcliffe, 2nd ed., vol. i., p. 66. Introduction.

** Letters, vol. ii., p. 147.

Two years after the removal of the Harleian library to the British Museum, Lady Oxford died, leaving an only daughter, Margaret Cavendish, married to William Bentinck, second Duke of Portland. She was the "noble, lovely little Peggy" sung by Prior. As she had inherited none of her father's and grandfather's tastes, it was fitting that the grand collection of MSS., for the sake of which they had impoverished themselves, should enrich an innumerable multitude of scholars and students of all nations and for all time.


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