« PreviousContinue »
fostered with such unprecedented zeal and liberality. But, on the other hand, it may be urged, that the true philosopher will hesitate in undervaluing any researches which are calculated to elicit truth, and which, when wisely pursued, cannot fail, like those of the antiquary, powerfully to interest our nature. The obligations that learning in general owes to them cannot be disputed, nor how much of value a refined period has borrowed from the productions of darker ages; nor, again, can we pretend to determine what further important results may yet be derived from diligent and well-conducted inquiries. But, if antiquarian studies and antiquarian objects are henceforward to be slighted by the public; if nothing is to be judged of value, or worthy of serious pursuit, that is not attended with evident and palpable profit,
then it is, in a more especial manner, incumbent upon the society to step forward, and rescue whatever is intrinsically valuable and curious from perishing by violence and neglect. It will thus signally fulfil the objects for which it was founded; and, by thus acting, it will confer a lasting obligation upon posterity.'-p. 8-10.
In considering such a proposal, the first point of inquiry ought perhaps to be what Lord Coke terms the exclusion of a conclusion; viz. the class of antiquities which ought to be rejected; and if, as we hope, we shall see Mr. Markland's plan effectually realized by his zeal and activity, we submit that it will be a sacred duty on the part of the Curators of the museum, to refuse any statue or specimen, detached or removed from any structure sufficiently stable to ensure the reasonable protection of its contents. There are few spectacles more rueful than the historical relic torn from the time-honoured walls to which it belongs, and turned into a show: the pendants and pinnacles of the Gothic hall ornamenting a 'Chinese dairy,'*—the_brass torn from the gravestone, and standing bolt upright between a Waterloo cuirass, and a spear from Otaheite;-the shattered panes of the storied window suspended from the sash-frame,—all bespeaking, not a rational affection for antiquity, but the destructive eagerness of the child. The extent of the mischief which can be committed by a diligent collector of this class is incalculable. The receiver is as bad as the thief. The museum, therefore, must not participate in such felonies; and the Directors must prove to the world that their collections are to lead to rational investigation, and not to satisfy idle curiosity.
What, then, may the Museum possess by lawful title? Inscribed monuments, whether Roman, British, or Runic, constitute a class of antiquities of great importance; and which, for the want of a proper repository, are constantly devoted to destruction. With respect to Roman monuments, we have heard it observed, that, in
The ornaments of the splendid council-chamber, adjoining Crosby Hall, have been so applied within the last few years, and the room itself turned into a workshop. general,
general, they are rude and of no value as specimens of art. It may be so; but every inscription is to be considered as the leaf of a book-which, if it records only a single name, preserves a fact, which may be of the greatest importance to the inquirer. And if English history should ever be prosecuted as a study, and not as a tale, the political geography of Roman Britain, for which inscriptions generally afford the best, and often the only evidence, will, probably, be found to have had no inconsiderable effect upon the formation of the territorial governments of the Anglo-Saxons. Where the originals cannot be obtained, casts should supply their places. Drawings of inscriptions are most delusive guides; and whimsical examples might be afforded of the hallucinations of the antiquary, mistaking the mistakes of the illiterate draughtsman for the genuine characters of the original sculptor, and reading with the utmost confidence what never existed to be read.
Weapons, ornaments, and all the various articles of the suppellectile class, require a public and notorious depository. If they are composed of the precious metals, they speedily find their way to the crucible; if they are of less valuable materials, they are tossed about from hand to hand-some are transferred from the virtuoso to the dealer, and lose all their value by their dispersion, or are neglected, spoilt, and destroyed. Of the fate of such articles, the annals of the Society afford a curious example. During the presidency of Lord Aberdeen's predecessor, several gold armlets, or bracelets, richly chased and of a very singular and unusual form, were discovered in Ireland, and exhibited to the Society. The singular style of these ornaments declared their origin. Bracelets, or armlets of gold, have been preserved amongst the regalia of England, from time immemorial; and they also constituted a favourite decoration amongst the northern warriors. Each of the knights who manned the ship presented by Earl Godwin to Hardicanute wore golden bracelets of the value of sixteen ounces.* The Beah, or Beage, a term derived from the verb Bigan, to bow or bend, and from whence the French bague is formed, seems also to have supplied the place of current coin; or, rather, it afforded a convenient mode of making a gift of value, just as Sovereigns now present a diamond ring or a snuff-box. Hence Athelstane is styled Beah-gypa,' or the giver of bracelets: Byrhtric bequeaths a Beah of the value of eighty mancusas of gold to his natural lord and sovereign; ‡ and, in another instance, we read of so many mancusas being paid in uno annulo.' There may, perhaps, be some doubt, and that is the only doubt, whether the armlets were + Ode on the battle of Brunnaburgh.
* Flor. Wigorn.
Textus Roffensis, p. 110.
Danish or Anglo-Saxon. A gentleman, singularly distinguished by his unrivalled knowledge of the antiquities both of literature and of art, who heard that these ornaments had passed into the hands of a tradesman, addressed a letter to the Council, and obtained an order for a drawing of one of the bracelets, though not without opposition. This bracelet was purchased by an intelligent antiquary, but all the others of these most singular jewels have shared the fate of the Darics, which, when consigned by Hastings to the Directors, were, after being duly examined by the committee of treasury,' faithfully forwarded to Goldsmith's Hall, and melted into ingots: and the bullion being weighed and assayed, the value was carried to account, and a thankful letter written to the Governor-general, acknowledging the receipt of the thirty-six pounds odd shillings which thus recruited the finances of the Company. Such acts occur almost as frequently as there can be any temptation to commit them; and the only chance of preventing the deeds of Vandalism, is by offering some reasonable premium for the preservation of those remains which are worth destroying by the finder: but how many are irretrievably lost? The magic shield of Edwin§ has, probably, been long since converted into tea-spoons or sugar-tongs.
Drawings of antiquarian objects are properly enumerated by Mr. Markland amongst the contents of his museum. Of these the society already possesses a large and valuable collection, many by the late Mr. Charles Stothard. We will not say that he was an artist who cannot be equalled, but we may assert, that, as yet, no one has ever united equal accuracy and feeling, and that he is the model whom every antiquarian artist must follow if he wishes to excel. Stothard's pencil was always guided by his mind. Those who have not attempted to draw with precision, are scarcely aware how inaccurately the eye sees any intricate or complicated object, until its lines and structure are fully intelligible to the understanding. Stothard never began his drawing, until, by previous study, he had fully satisfied himself of the tint, the form
Hickes, Diss. Ep. 187.
Whilst these sheets are passing through the press, a singular article of this description has been put into our hands-it is a very attenuated plate of gold, measuring about four inches by one, lately discovered at Llanpeblic, (Caernarvon,) near the Roman station of Segontium. The characters with which it is covered, are, for the most part, Greek—and as Cæsar states, that Greek letters were known to the Druids, it might at first be supposed that we possess a genuine remain of the Celtic age; but on examining the text this pleasing vision is dispelled. The first word is AAONAI; and the other Hebrew names and epithets, such as EANAI, IAN, EAAION, which can be distinctly traced, show that it is a Basilidian talisman. After the inscription in Greek letters, another follows, in astral or magical characters. Though not British, this relic of antiquity is extremely curious. According to Irenæus, the Basilidian doctrines prevailed in Gaul immediately after the Apostolic age, and the talisman, which, from the shape of the characters, appears to be of the second century, affords an important proof of the rapid extension of the heresy to the remotest provinces of the Roman world.
and the bearing of every part and portion of his subject. We know, for instance, that he passed three days, from sun-rise till sun-set, in examining the tomb of Sir Oliver de Ingham, before he ventured to commence the admirable drawing, engraved in his Monumental Antiquities.* In architectural antiquities, notwithstanding the great interest which has been excited of late years, much still remains to be done. And it would be very desirable to preserve correct architectural drawings of ruined buildings, which offer the most authentic examples, uncontaminated by restoration, and unpolluted by repair: we do not want pretty, tasteful representations for young ladies' albums or the drawing-room table, but sound and scientific portraits and dissections, exhibiting those details of construction, which can alone afford any real help to the architect. Fountains, Selby, Croyland, Lindisfarne, and, indeed, all the finest of our desecrated fanes have, as yet, been treated only by the delusive pencil of the lovers of the picturesque.
A museum of antiquities, properly organized, would not only tend to the preservation of the objects, but ultimately show the real use to which they are to be applied. By an assemblage of details, the observer may be led to generalize. The main error of our English antiquarians has arisen from their narrowing their views to particular points of research, and by confounding the interest arising from singularity, with the interest of history.
ART. IX.-1. Letter to the Magistrates of England on the Increase of Crime. By Sir E. E. Wilmot, Bart., London, 1828. 2. The Seventh Report of the Committee of the Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline, &c. 1827.
HE Letter of Sir Eardley Eardley Wilmot, addressed to the magistrates of England, on the increase of crime, containing much, though not the whole, truth, is entitled to no small degree of consideration. The author tells us, that within the last seven years he has, in the county of Warwick, tried above two thousand criminals for petty offences! Such experience must have afforded him considerable insight into the habits and springs of action of the vicious part of the community, and enabled him to form a tolerably accurate judgment of the effects of punishment upon the different classes of them, whether in the way of amendment, intimidation, or corruption. When such a man steps for
We beg to recommend to our readers a very interesting memoir of Mr. Stothard; by his widow, (now Mrs. Bray,) who partook largely in his enthusiasm for antiquities, and has interwoven much curious matter of that kind in her romances of St. Foix' and the White Hoods,' which may be consulted as very pleasing and very faithful chronicles of the elder day. The memoir of Stothard is written with great elegance and much feeling.
ward with such a statement as this, we may feel assured that mischief lurks somewhere; and though the remedy he suggests will not perhaps wholly remove the evil, it is assuredly entitled to respectful attention. Disposed as we are to admit the truth of very many of his observations, we cannot go the whole length of his views upon this subject. He ascribes all, or almost all, of this recent rapid increase of crime to the effects of early imprisonment. Doubtless much mischief springs from committing to prison mere urchins upon every paltry charge of what the law cabalistically calls felony; nor is the absurdity a jot less in submitting these children to the tedious and somewhat clumsy operations of the machinery of criminal procedure, to the secret investigations of a grand jury, and all the pomp and circumstance of a court of judicature, when a sound whipping at the moment, or a month of solitary confinement upon bread and water, would be infinitely more suitable both to the quality of the offence and the age of the offender; still we can no more believe that early imprisonment is the efficient and primary cause of crime, than that the injudicious treatment formerly of persons afflicted with the smallpox, by shutting them up in the noxious air of rooms hermetically sealed, was the cause of the disease; such folly may have aggravated the symptoms, but could never have originated the disorder. We owe, however, too much to the honourable baronet to quarrel with him about such distinctions; that he denounces a real evil, is granted-the remedy then is the chief poin for consideration. What he proposes we will give in his own
. I would recommend,' he says, not a restoration of those tribunals which formerly existed in every hundred and every village, in the time of our ancestors, but the adoption of the principle in which they originated, viz. the immediate and summary cognizance of offences com→ mitted by the youthful depredator, to be heard before an intermediate tribunal, where petty offences may be instantly proceeded against and punished, without sending the offender to undergo the stigma and contamination of a public prison, the publicity of trial, and all those evils which infallibly result from early imprisonment. I would change the law of larceny [simple] as affecting offenders of a certain age, and convert the offence into one of minor character, cognizable by two magistrates, in the same way as offences now are under the malicious trespass act, and many others; and by thus arming the magistracy with the power of immediate conviction on sufficient evidence, or on confession of the parties, I would empower them to punish the young culprit by whipping, confining him in an asylum set apart for this purpose, or by discharging him without punishment at all.'
At such an alteration of the law many will perhaps at first be inclined to startle, as giving new and somewhat dangerous powers