Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

a

plied him with all sorts of rare and curious objects; being fully per, suaded that they would be not only acceptable, but that the receipt of them would be immediately acknowledged with gratitude.

At the age of fourscore, Sir Hans Sloane resigned the presidency of the Royal Society, when he was publicly thanked for the emi. nent services he had rendered to the society, and a request was made that his name might remain enrolled among the members as long as he should live. But the most extraordinary part of the life of this eminent man is the removal, at the age of eighty-one, of his museum and library from Great Russel-street, Bloomsbury, (a place to which it was so soon destined to return), to his new habitation, the “Manor House,” at Chelsea. The few gifted persons who arrive at this octogenarian distinction, we believe, think only of removing to the domus ultima; not so Sir Hans Sloane: with an ener. gy not belonging to his years, he set about transporting this immense collection of books, MSS., and curiosities, to Chelsea. On the 12th of May, 1741, he commenced his residence there, and retired to to enjoy, in tranquillity, the remainder of a well-spent life. He did not, however, hermit-like, seek that solitude which excludes the blandishments of society--the only charm that, at this period of life, binds us to existence. Here, as he had done in London, he received the visits of persons of distinction, of learned foreigners, and even of the royal family, who sometimes did him that honour. An interesting account of one of these royal visits, in the year 1748, is given by a contemporary writer, and, as it affords the only record of the state of Sir Hans's museum at that time, we shall make no apology for presenting some portion of it to our readers. “Dr. Mortimer, secretary to the Royal Society, conducted the Prince and Princess of Wales into the room where Sir Hans was sitting, being ancient and infirm. The Prince took a chair, and sat down by the good old gentleman sometime, when he expressed the greatest esteem and value for him personally, and how much the learned world was obliged to him for having collected such a vast library of curious books, and such immense treasures of the valuable and instructive productions of nature and art. Sir Hans's house* forms a square of above one hundred feet each side, inclosing a court; and three front rooms had tables set along the middle, which were spread over with drawers filled with all sorts of precious stones in their

• This house was built by King Henry VIII., and a print of it forms the frontispiece to Mr. Faulkner's History of Chelsea. It was pulled down soon after Sir Hans's death, and a row of new houses was standing upon the ancient site in the year 1763. Biographia Britannica, art. Sloane.

[ocr errors][merged small]

а

natural beds, or state as they are found in the earth. Here the most magnificent vessels of cornelian, onyx, sardonyx, and jasper, delighted the eye. When their royal highnesses had viewed one room, and went into another, the scene was shifted; for when they returned the same tables were covered, for a second course, with all sorts of jewels, polished and set after the modern fashion, or with engraved gems; for the third course, the tables were spread with gold and silver ores, with the most precious and remarkable ornaments used in the habits of man, from Siberia to the Cape of Good Hope, from Japan to Peru ;t and with both ancient and modern coins, and medals in gold and silver, the lasting monuments of historical facts: as those of a Pope Gregory XIII., recording, on a silver medal, his blind zeal for religion, in perpetuating thereon the massacre of the protestants in France; as did Charles IX., the then reigning king in that country. Here may be seen the coins of a king of England crowned at Paris; a medal, representing France and Spain striving which should first pay their obeisance to Britannia; the happy deliverance of Britain by the arrival of King William ; the glorious exploits of a Duke of Marlborough, and the happy arrival of the present illustrious royal family amongst us.

The gallery, one hundred and ten feet in length, presented a most surprising prospect; the most beautiful corals, crystals, and figured stones, and feathers of birds vying with gems; here the remains of the antediluvian world excited the awful idea of that great catastrophe, so many evident testimonies of the truth of Moses's history. Then a noble vista presented itself filled with books ; among these many hundred volumes of dried plants; a room full of choice and valuable MSS.; the noble present sent by the French king to Sir Hans of his collection of paintings, medals, statues, palaces, &c., in twenty-five large atlas volumes, besides other things too many to mention here. Below stairs, some rooms are filled with the curious and venerable antiquities of Egypt, Greece, Etruria, Rome, Britain, and even America ; others with large animals preserved in the skin, the great saloon lined, on every side, with bottles filled with spirits, containing various animals. The halls are adorned with the horns of divers creatures, and with weapons of different countries; among

+ This collection formed what is now called an Ethnographical Museum, comprising materials for the study of the customs and modes of life of the various branches of the human race; such as is to be found at St. Petersburgh, in Holland, and various other places, and such as we think might form a separate department, with a curator, in our own National Museum.

which it appears that the Mayalese, and not our most Christian neighbours the French, had the honour of inventing that butcherly weapon, the bayonet. Fifty volumes in folio would scarce suffice to contain a detail of this immense museum, consisting of above two hundred thousand articles. The prince expressed the great pleasure it gave him to see so magnificent a collection in England, esteeming it an ornament to the nation ; and expressed his sentiments how much it must conduce to the benefit of learning, and how great an honour will redound to Britain, to have it established for public use to the latest posterity."*

Although Sir Hans Sloane had now for some time declined practice as a physician, he never refused to give advice to any one, however high his rank, or humble his station in society. During his retirement, also, he continued to promulgate such medical discoveries as he deemed important; and did not, like many of his bre. thren, make a mystery of his profession. His encouragement of learned men, whether native or foreign, commands our admiration. Among the latter may be named Job Ben Solomon, son of the Mohammedan King of Banda, who, after having been sold as a slave, and suffered many reverses of fortune, found his way to England, where his talents, dignified air, and amenity of character procured him friends, and among the rest Sir Hans Sloane, who employed him for a considerable time in translating several Arabic MSS. His memory was so retentive that, it is said, he could repeat the whole of the Koran by heart. Sir Hans Sloane's patronage of artists is equally worthy of remark. He employed the celebrated natural history painter, George Edwards, for a great number of years, in drawing miniature figures of animals after nature, to increase his fine collection of drawings, on the same subject, by other masters. He also paid five guineas a leaf to M. Robert, a celebrated French artist, for drawings of plants, animals, shells, &c., which are considered to be among the richest and most accurate of any period. To those must be added two volumes on vellum, from the pencil of Madame Merian.

During Sir Hans Sloane's retirement at Chelsea, George Ed. wards was accustomed to visit him every week, to divert him for an hour or two with the common news of the town, and with any particulars that might have happened amongst his acquaintance of the Royal Society, or other scientific persons, and seldom missed drinking coffee with him on a Saturday. The old baronet was so

Gentleman's Magazine, 1748, vol. xviii., p. 301, 2.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

infirm as to be wholly confined to his house, except sometimes, though rarely, taking a little air in his garden, in a wheeled chair ; and this confinement made him very desirous to see any of his old acquaintance to amuse him. Knowing that the librarian did not abound in the gifts of fortune, Sir Hans was strictly careful that Edwards should be at no expense in his journeys from London to Chelsea ; and the good old man would calculate what the cost of coach-hire, waterage, or any other little charges attending on his journeys backwards and forwards would amount to, and, observing as much delicacy as possible, would oblige him annually to accept of it. George Edwards, who died at the age of eighty, was elected librarian of the College of Physicians in the year 1733, through the influence of Sir Hans Sloane, who continued, through life, his great patron. Edwards was an extraordinary man : when young, he had been intended for trade; but having an opportunity to travel, he much improved himself, and when, on his return from abroad, he was lucky enough to obtain the leisure which his office afforded him, he devoted himself to the study of natural history, and became by great assiduity, a distinguished ornithologist. During thirty, six years, he was librarian to the College, and in that period was chosen Fellow of the Royal and Antiquarian Societies, and by the first of these learned bodies was rewarded with the Copley medal, of which he was so deservedly proud as to have it engraved in the title-page of the first volume of his work,

Hactenus hæc. Hitherto the extreme temperance of Sir Hans Sloane had preserved him from experiencing much inconvenience from the infirmities of old age ; but in his ninetieth year, it is recorded of him, that he began to complain of pains, and to be sensible of a general decay. He was often heard to say, “ that the approach of death brought no terrors with it; that he had long expected the stroke, and was prepared to receive it whenever the Great Author of his being should think fit.” The long-expected moment at length arrived. With this highly-talented man and sincere christian, there were none of those “dire tossings” and “deep groans" he must have so often witnessed in the hospitals over which he presided, where

Despair
Tended the sick, busiest from couch to couch ;
And over them, triumphant Death his dart
Shook, but delayed to strike.”

None of these horrors were present at the death-bed of our benevo.

lent physician: after a short illness of three days he tranquilly breathed his last, on January 11th, 1752. He was interred on the 18th, at Chelsea, in the same vault with his lady, the solemnity being attended by the greatest concourse of persons of all ranks and conditions that had been witnessed on any similar occasion. Seve. ral members of the Royal Society were present, and the pall was borne by six of that learned body. The funeral sermon was preacha ed by Dr. Zachary Pearce, Bishop of Bangor, who delivered a very affecting discourse from Psalm xc., 12,—“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom"--but no mention was made of the exalted qualities of the deceased, in consequence of an express prohibition which he had pronounced a few hours before his death, considering it “a profanation to debase, with the praise of human excellence, the pulpit, which should be devoted to display to man the greatness of the Supreme Being and to instruct him in his laws.”

In the south-east corner of the church yard of the old church at Chelsea, is a magnificent monument erected to the memory of Sir Hans Sloane and his lady, executed by Wilton, the statuary ; it is composed of Portland stone, on the top of which, under a portico, supported by four pillars, is placed a beautiful vase, of the finest white marble, with four serpents entwined round it, inimitably executed, all out of one piece; on each side is an entablature, the arms* on one, and the crest on the other, with an inscription in memory of his ludy, and the following, dedicated to Sir Hans Sloane.

[blocks in formation]

a

Gules, a sword in pale, point downwards, blade and hilt or, between two boars' heads couped at the neck; on a chief ermine, a lion passant, of the first between two mascles, sable. Crest, a lion's head erased, collared with mascles, interlaced sable.

Faulkner's Chelsea, pp. 67, 68.

« ZurückWeiter »