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1. The first and most important result would be the immediate relief it might be made to afford to the whole establishment like the safety-valve of an engine, or the sluices of a flood-gate, it would suddenly but safely remove the internal pressure-the plethora-under which the whole Museum is represented as suffering, by more than doubling the space given in the original plan to the Library and Antiquities both together, and very nearly doubling their present extent, including the six or seven sculpture galleries that have been added on to the first design. (See again the plan, p. 174.)
2. We do not presume to anticipate the details of the distribution of the spaces thus acquired, but it is obvious that, the Egyptian sculptures being better provided for in the court, that gallery-which is on the west side, exactly similar to the King's Library on the east-might naturally fall into the Book department, and indeed seems necessary to complete its symmetry; and if an increase of the Reading-room be required, we know not where it can so conveniently be attained, as by removing it, next door as it were, into the great central apartment, where it would be really in the centre of the whole library; and one or both of the reading-rooms, which would be in this case added to the general library, might hereafter, if necessary, afford extension to the reading-room. The only objection to this plan that we can foresee is, that it would be requisite to make a communication between the east and west libraries for the interior service without passing through the new Reading-room; but that might be easily provided, by adding a corridor, or even a room, on the external north, where there is fortunately a vacant spacemarked on the plan by a dotted line; here the trap-window and counter for the receipt of tickets and the delivery of the books might be placed, and the messengers for the books despatched east and west with more ease and rapidity than at present. The Egyptian gallery, if fitted up on the plan of loggie, or recesses, each with a window, as is now partially adopted in the central and west rooms of the library, could be made to hold at least 150,000 volumes, and be still, we believe, the finest room in the Museum. This loggie plan is that of the libraries of Trinity Colleges in Cambridge and Dublin-both beautiful rooms, but the latter especially, which is the most perfect we ever saw, not merely in capacity and convenience, but in picturesque effect. The proposed room at the Museum might be still finer-at least its dimensions and capacity would be greater. We have heard some very competent judges express surprise that this loggie plan, undoubtedly the most economical of space, was not adopted originally for the
King's Library. But, perhaps, Sir Robert Smirke was right. The royal donation* deserved to be exhibited in its full extent, with what we may call a parade of its wealth-for this, mere economy of space was the contrary of desirable. The room itself, in spite of Mr. Fergusson's objections to it, is to the public eye a suitable vestibule, as well as a magnificent specimen of the library of the British Museum.
3. We say nothing of the British, Roman, Athenian, and Phigalian Sculpture Galleries-the two latter (though also very much criticised) seem sufficiently handsome and convenient, and we see no reason why they should be at present disturbed. They would all, and especially the two former, we believe, be much better exhibited in the great court than in their present position, of which many, and some not unreasonable, complaints are made; but as the room gained by the removal of the Egyptian, Assyrian, and Lycian Antiquities to the court would probably meet all the wants of the departments now most in need of room, for many years to come, we do not think it necessary to push our present proposals any farther than to repeat that the superficial size of the court is considerably greater than the whole space now assigned to all the sculptures put together. Ought any petty objections to prevent our opening to the Museum this new world of space?
4. There is another alteration, which, though not essential to our plan, would improve it both in extent and effect, and be advantageous to the rest of the Museum. There is a basement-story to the whole building;-why there should have been a buried story we cannot guess-but there it is, sunk in an area like the offices of a street-house, and its windows, already two-thirds masked by the area wall, are further obscured, like the said street-offices, by strong iron bars-obscured, not secured; for why these bars are thought necessary as safeguards on the side of a court-yard absolutely inaccessible except through three doors opening into the interior, we are again at a loss to imagine: but there is the buried story—and a striking defect and copious cause of complaint it is! It seems to us that, instead of exaggerating the evil, as proposed in Mr. Smirke's plan, by rais
We have received a strong remonstrance, accompanied with, as it seems to us, very strong evidence, against the whole and every part of the anecdote related in our Number for December 1850 (Q. R. v. 88, p. 143), relative to the motives and manner of the transfer by George IV. of his father's library to the Museum. We took the anecdote from the original and full edition of the Handbook for Spain; but think Mr. Ford must have been misled by some of the loose talkers among his Majesty's Whig ex-friends. We are, however, making strict inquiries into the business, and shall take an opportunity of acquainting our readers with the result.
Where we use the term area in its vulgar sense of a street area we print it in italics. It is necessary to note this to distinguish it from the general area or surface of the court. N 2 ing
ing the level of the centre of the court higher than the ceiling of the basement, it would be much better if the whole court, or at least two-thirds of it, were to be lowered for its new destination to the level of the present area- when, the windowbars being removed, the basement would have the advantage of all the light and air of which it is susceptible-would less deserve the opprobrious name of cellars now too justly bestowed on it—and, what is more important, would become much more available to the purposes of the Museum. It may be objected to this proposition, that it would alter the architectural proportions of the inner façades of the court. We admit that it would in theory, but not sensibly in fact, for the theoretical base-line of the architectural elevation is the terrace of the flight of steps that descend into the court, which is several feet higher than the line of sight, so that on every side of the court, except that single spot, the theoretic base vanishes, and, the basement and its area being visible to every eye, the supposed architectural proportion is really little better than a sham, and may, we think, be disregarded, in consideration of the general improvement.
We have said that this lowering of the level-whether carried throughout or limited to widening the area on each side to 40 or 50 feet-is not indispensable to the success of our plan for the appropriation of the court, but it would certainly be an important improvement-first, because the area itself is not only mean and unsightly, but a wanton introduction of a vulgar expedient only pardonable in a London street because it is inevitable, but which becomes ridiculously, we might say offensively, useless in the interior court of the Museum. And, as we think that the slabs of Egyptian and Assyrian sculpture, and by and bye, perhaps, all the bas-reliefs, which are now affixed to the inner side of the walls, and imperfectly lighted, might be as well or indeed better fixed to the court side of the same wall, and lighted from the sky, it would be desirable that the spectator should be able to examine them more conveniently than across the area.
5. But there is another consideration. One of the complaints against the existing galleries is, that the sculptures originally designed to be viewed from and at different heights are now only visible from one level. The defect-be it greater or less-exists in every gallery we ever saw, and is, generally speaking, inevitable. We have, therefore, been always inclined to rank this complaint amongst the hyper-criticisms; but when an opportunity occurs of remedying a defect, however slight it may appear, it is as well to avail ourselves of it. It is therefore an additional recommendation
commendation of our proposed use of the court, and still more of partly or wholly lowering its level, that the three flights of steps by which visitors are to descend into it would afford a succession of elevations near which the works that are supposed to require various points of view might be placed. Let us add, that, if there be anything really serious in this complaint of the uniform level of the present galleries, the surface of the court might be, as we have above intimated, broken into two or three different levels, as proposed by Mr. Smirke, but with different dimensions and for a very different object from his: the centre one, at, or above, or below, the present level, as might be ultimately decided, and two lateral ones on that of the present area. The space, indeed, would afford five such terraces-a centre one of 60 feet wide, and two lateral ones at each side 40 feet wide-the width of the present Egyptian Gallery-the space of which by the new appropriation of the court would be thus more than quintupled. But again, we say, these details of distribution, which we only throw out to meet complaints that have been made, do no otherwise affect our general proposition than by affording prospects of additional advantage.
There is now but one principal entrance into the courtthat from the Great Hall; and although the idea of a similar one in the opposite façade is very tempting, we are of opinion that it would be necessary to limit ourselves to the two lesser and lateral entrances already existing in the two northern angles-for these, amongst other reasons-that they are there; and that their removal would be not merely unnecessarily expensive, but injurious to, and indeed incompatible with, the internal arrangements of the building, and particularly if the new Reading-room be placed in the central library; for not only would it be extremely inconvenient to have the Reading-room opening at once upon the court, but the ante-rooms, through which it is indispensable that the Readers should pass, can nowhere be so well obtained as in the spaces between these lateral entrances and the central room. The absence of a decent entrance, corridors, and ante-rooms, is, as every officer and reading visitor feels, one of the greatest discomforts of the existing arrangement. It really deserves the epithet of disgraceful.
On the whole, after the fullest consideration that we have been able to give to this interesting subject, we do not hesitate to recommend the covering and appropriating the central court in the manner we have sketched-not merely as a temporary or economical expedient, nor as removing the most serious and well-founded objection that can be made to the edifice, but as
being in itself a great and permanent improvement. Some such device ought to have been originally adopted-and this will now only complete the existing edifice without in any degree interfering with any future or external plans either of accommodation or architecture. We do not propose to block up a single window, nor break a single door. The fitting the Egyptian and Assyrian and two unfurnished and unappropriated Galleries for whatever purposes may be found most advisable the exchange of the Reading-rooms with the adjoining compartment of the Library-and the levelling, flooring, and glass-roofing the court-is all that we contemplate; and these changes, so easy and simple, would probably satisfy all the wants of the Museum for the present, and, we believe, the two next, generations. By that time, perhaps, our successors may be disposed to extend a circumambient edifice over the whole space designated on the plan we have reproduced. We do not deny that it is a grand idea, and that individually we should be glad to see it adequately carried into effect; but as the case stands, we must be satisfied to bequeath to our grandchildren the honour, the pleasure, the cost, and the criticism of such a monuinent.
ART. VIII.-J. Memoirs of William Wordsworth, Poet-Laureate, D.C.L. By Christopher Wordsworth, D.D., Canon of Westminster. 2 vols. 8vo. 1851.
2. Memoirs of William Wordsworth, compiled from authentic sources. By January Searle, Author of Life, Character, and Genius of Ebenezer Elliott, &c. 12mo., pp. 312. 1852.
T was a frequent saying of the subject of these memoirs
of Westminster tells us that it is especially just as to his uncle himself, and adds, in language far too magisterial to be spoken out of a school-room, 'Let no other Life of Wordsworth be composed beside what has thus been written with his own hand.' Two volumes in large octavo are a singular commentary upon this prohibitory ordinance. In fact, the position is abandoned the instant it is taken up. The logical Doctor confesses that the personal incidents in his great kinsman's verse can only be fully understood through a narrative in prose, and that even the sentiments will be better appreciated when they are shown to have been in harmony with the poet's practice.