« ForrigeFortsæt »
nor by delegation, can you bring their bodies into court. A king's audience, on the other hand, might be had as an authorized representative body. But, when we consider the composition of a casual and chance auditory, whether in a street or a theatre; secondly, the small size of a modern audience, even in Drury Lane, (3000 at the most,) not by one eightieth part the complement of the Circus Maximus; most of all, when we consider the want of symmetry, to any extended duration of time, in the acts of such an audience, which acts lie in the vanishing expressions of its vanishing emotions, acts so essentially fugitive, even when organized into an art and a tactical system of imbrices and bombi, (as they were at Alexandria, and afterwards at the Neapolitan theatres and those of Rome,) they could not, by any art, protect themselves from dying in the very moment of their birth; laying together all these considerations, we see the incongruity of any audience, so constituted, to any purpose less evanescent than their own tenure of existence.
Just such in disproportion as these cases had severally been, was our present problem in relation to our time or other means for accomplishing it. We were to see London, which, under what approximation were we to execute, unless, (like the student in Hierocles,) by bringing off a brick in our pockets?
In debating the matter we lost half an hour; but at length we reduced the question to a choice between Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral. I know not that we could have chosen better. The rival edifices, as we understood from the waiter, were about equidistant from our own station; but being too remote from each other to allow of our seeing both, we tossed up' to settle the question between the elder lady and the younger. 'Heads' came up, which stood for the Abbey. But, as
neither of us was quite satisfied with this decision, we agreed to make another appeal to the wisdom of chance, second thoughts being best. This time the Cathedral turned up; and so it happened that with us, the having seen London, meant having seen St. Paul's.
The first view of St. Paul's, it may well be supposed, overwhelmed us with awe; and I did not at that time imagine that the sense of magnitude could be more deeply impressed. One thing, however, though appar ently a trifle, and really a trifle if otherwise managed, interrupted our pleasure a good deal. The superb objects of curiosity within the Cathedral were shown for separate fees. There were seven, I think; and any one could be seen independently of the rest for a few pence. The whole amount was a trifle; but we were followed by a sort of persecution Would we not see the bell?'. 6 Would we not see the model?". 'Surely we would not go away without visiting the Whispering Gallery?' which troubled the silence and sanctity of the place, and must teaze others as it then teazed us, who wished to contemplate in quiet a great monument of the national grandeur, and which was at that very time * beginning to take a station also in the land, as a depository for the dust of her heroes. What struck us most in the whole interior of the pile, was the view taken from the spot immediately under the dome, being, in fact, the very same which, five years afterwards, received the remains of Lord Nelson. In one of the aisles going off from this centre, we saw the flags of France, Spain, and Holland, the whole trophies of the war, in short, expanding their massy draperies, slowly and heavily, in the upper gloom, as they
* Already monuments had been voted by the House of Commons in this cathedral, and were nearly completed, I think, to two captains who had fallen at the Nile.
were swept at intervals by currents of air. Boys do not sentimentalize, or much express their feelings; but they have feelings of a solemn nature, though easily giving way to trivial interruptions, no less than their seniors; and we were provoked by the showman at our elbow, taking this moment for his vile iteration of 'Twopence, Gentlemen, no more than twopence for each;' and so on until we left the place. The same complaint has been often made as to Westminster Abbey; and the sting of the complaint has been thrown into a shape which I could not, in justice, assent to without further inquiry. Where the wrong lies, or where it commences, I know not. Certainly I nor any man has a right to expect that the poor men who attended us should give up their time for nothing, or even to be angry with them for a sort of persecution, on the degree of which possibly might depend the comfort of their own families. Thoughts of famishing children at home, leave little room for nice regards of delicacy abroad. The individuals, therefore, might or might not be blameable. But in any case the system is palpably wrong. The nation is entitled to a free unmolested access to its own public monuments: not access merely, but to the use of them; not free only in the sense of being gratuitous, but free also from the molestation of showmen, with their imperfect knowledge and vulgar sentiment.
Yet, after all, what is this system of restriction and annoyance, compared with that which operates on the use of the national libraries; or that again to the system of exclusion from some of these, where an absolute interdict lies upon any use at all of that which is confessedly national property? Books and MSS. which were collected originally and formally bequeathed to the public, under the generous and noble purpose of giving to future gen
erations advantages which the collector had himself not enjoyed, and liberating them from obstacles in the pursuit of knowledge, which experience had bitterly imprinted upon his own mind, are at this day locked up as absolutely against me, you, or anybody, as any collection confessedly private. Nay, far more so; for all private collectors of eminence, as the late Mr. Heber, for instance, have been distinguished for liberality in lending the rarest of their books to those who knew how to use them with effect. But in the cases I now contemplate, the whole funds for supporting the proper offices attached to a library, librarians, sub-librarians, &c. which of themselves (and without the express verbal evidence of the founder's will) presume a public in the daily use of the books, else they are superfluous, have been applied to the creation of lazy sinecures, in behalf of persons expressly charged with the care of shutting out the public. Therefore, it is true, they are not sinecures: for that one care, vigilantly to keep out the public, they do take upon themselves; and
* This place suggests the mention of another crying abuse connected with this subject. In the year 1811 or 1810, came under Parliamentary notice and revision the law of Copyright. In some excellent pamphlets drawn forth by the occasion, from Mr. Duppa, for instance, and several others, the whole subject was well probed, and many aspects, little noticed by the public, were exposed, of that extreme injustice attached to the law as it then stood. The several monopolies connected with books were noticed a little; and not a little notice was taken of the oppressive privilege with which certain public libraries were invested, of exacting, severally, a copy of each new book published. This downright robbery was palliated by some members of the House in that day, under the notion of its being a sort of exchange, or quid pro quo in return for the relief obtained by the statute of Queen Anne- the first which recognised literary property. 'For,' argued they, 'previously to that statute, supposing your book pirated, at common law you could obtain redress only for each copy proved to have been sold by the pirate; and that might not be a thousandth part of the actual loss. Now, the statute of Queen Anne granting you a general redress, upon proof that
why? A man loving books like myself, might suppose that their motive was the ungenerous one of keeping the
a piracy had been committed, you, the party relieved, were hound to express your sense of this relief by a return made to the public; and the public is here represented by the great endowed libraries of the seven universities, the British Museum, &c. &c.' But prima facie, this was that selling of justice which is expressly renounced in Magna Charta: and why were proprietors of copyright more than other proprietors, to make an acknowledgment' for their rights? But, supposing that just, why, especially, to the given public bodies? Now, for my part, I think that this admits of an explanation: Nine-tenths of the authors in former days, lay amongst the class who had received a college education; and most of these, in their academic life, had benefited largely by old endowments. Giving up, therefore, a small tribute from their copyright, there was some color of justice in supposing that they were making a slight acknowledgment for past benefits received, and exactly for those benefits which enabled them to appear with any advantage as authors. So, I am convinced, the 'servitude' first arose, and under this construction; which, even for those days, was often a fiction, but now generally such. However, be the origin what it may, the ground, upon which the public mind in 1811 (that small part of it at least which the question attracted), reconciled itself to the abuse, was this. For a trivial wrong, (but it was then shown that the wrong was not always trivial,) one great good is achieved, viz., that all over the kingdom are dispersed eleven great depositories, in which all persons interested may, at all times, be sure of finding one copy of every book published. That did seem a great advantage and a balance politically, (if none morally,) to the injustice upon which it grew. But now mark the degree in which this balancing advantage is made available. 1. The eleven bodies are not equally careful to exact their copies; that can only be done by retaining an agent in London; and this agent is careless about books of slight money value. 2. Were it otherwise, of what final avail would a perfect set of the year's productions prove to a public not admitted freely to the eleven libraries? 3. But finally, if they were admitted, to what purpose, (as regards this particular advantage,) under the following custom, which, in some of these eleven libraries, (possibly in all,) was I well knew, established: annually the principal librarian weeded the annual crop of all such books as displeased himself; upon which two questions arise. 1. Upon what principle? 2. With what result? I answer as to the first, in his lustration (to borrow a Roman idea) he went upon no principle at all, but his own caprice, or what he called his own discretion; and accordingly it is a fact known to many as well as