Front Page Titles (by Subject) (E): BRITISH MUSEUM - Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, Vol. I (Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone)
Return to Title Page for Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, Vol. I (Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
(E): BRITISH MUSEUM - John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton, Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, Vol. I (Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone) 
Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, edited with and Introduction by John Neville Figgis and Renald Vere Laurence. Vol. I Correspondence with Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone and Others (London: Longmans, Gree and Co., 1917).
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
My dear Mr. Gladstone,—
Lowe has just told me of the important decision you have come to about the two Museums. The Trustees are not equal to their present work, and would not be competent to undertake what it was proposed to add; but I hope that the inquiry will establish the necessity of a considerable change.
The board of Trustees is too weak for its work both in quality and in numbers—I mean of men who can attend. The weakness in numbers is felt on the sub-committees; the weakness in quality is always felt. The consequence is that the officers of the Museum are too strong for the sub-committees, and that the Standing Committee bullies and bothers the officers. The former evil is not very serious, as the officers know their work, for the most part, too well; but they are not the guardians of the public money, and their influence is expensive. I will give you one instance. The commentary on our Attic Inscriptions was prepared by a very good scholar, by status a country clergyman with pupils. It is under 200 pages, and most of the mechanical work on the stones was done for him. He got, I think, £500. This was awarded by a sub-committee consisting of the Bishop of London and the Dean of Windsor. I was in the chair. Newton had already committed us, and we could not recede from the bargain without inflicting some hardship. Lowe, a member of the sub-committee unfortunately did not attend. All I could do was to have it resolved that no further arrangement should be made with editors except by special order and authority of the Trustees. But both my colleagues thought the sum reasonable, and Walpole afterwards expressed special approval of our report.
The Standing Committee is very often represented by only four or five men, and the whole thing is sometimes managed by a group consisting of Lord Stanhope, Sir Philip Egerton, Dundas, Walpole, and one or two others.
The four men I have named agree, among other things, in thinking that all Greek statues should have Roman and not Greek names.
Once the Roman and Spanish Index was discussed, and it appeared that the British Museum has very few of the editions. I need not say that the history of the Index is one of the most curious things in the history of literature and of the Church of Rome. But the Chairman laid down that we need only have the latest edition of the Index, and that even that is hardly wanted since the fall of the temporal power.
The consequence of this is that the few incapable heads of departments are in good odour and harmony with the Trustees, and that there is an eager desire to snub those who are scientifically more competent.
I don’t wish to exaggerate the defects of a system which works quietly and fairly well; but if we had more good men on the Board, we should get more for our money.—I remain, yours most truly,