Archaeological Journal/Volume 1/Suggestions for the Extension of the British Archaeological Association
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE EXTENSION OF THE BRITISH ARCHAEOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION.
Anticipating from the high auspices under which The British Archæological Association has commenced its career, that it will speedily establish for itself a very important and permanent position in regard to the literature and antiquities of the country, I have ventured to throw together a few suggestions upon its future destination and management.
Called into existence by the strong and general feeling that the objects about which it proposes to interest itself have been far too long and most injuriously neglected, it will not be sufficient to remedy the evil, so far as may yet be practicable, by redeeming these objects from oblivion, unless pains be taken, at the same time, to classify and preserve them. If British, Celtic, Roman, Saxon, Danish, Norman, and other remains, are only to be brought to partial light and scattered throughout a number of private collections and receptacles, we might almost as well refrain from our researches. Allotting to every one a few specimens and a mouthful of intelligence can never achieve a national undertaking; and if we intend our labours to be adequately useful, we must, from the very beginning, prepare, and lay the foundation for a Museum to concentrate and arrange the products of our investigations. Without this, written description would but poorly effect the ends we have in view, viz. the engendering and extending of a disposition to discover and take care of the relics left by our ancestors from the earliest dates, the recording and doing honour to those who unite with us in this pursuit, and the ample and judicious disposal of the memorials by means of which the manners and history of bygone ages are made known. When we consider the great pleasure with which every intelligent person examines even a few rare and curious specimens, we may imagine the intense delight which would be afforded by an enlarged museum, containing every variety of the antiquarian remains which our island discloses. By the success which may attend our own exertions, by gifts from patriotic individuals in possession of similar treasures, and by the exchange of duplicates and liberality towards others, there cannot be a question but that within the space of a very limited period, the British Archæological Association would be enabled to exhibit a rich, instructive, and most interesting Institution of this kind.
Settled in the metropolis, it would be a focus of meeting and intercourse for members; and out of it ought to grow opportunities for cultivating both individual benefits and general good. In due season and attached to it, an Archæological Club might be formed, and literature and science be found no unfit allies to the union of social gratification in the interchange of mind directed to the elucidation of points in common with all. Co-operation, instead of insulation, would become our order of the day; and the result would soon appear in the most satisfactory way that an English antiquary could wish.
And let it be remembered that science and literature are the only true republics impervious to "class" doubt or censure. The equality is a noble one, and such a Club as I have alluded to would need no canvassing for the admission of members, no ballot boxes to guard against the ingress of the unworthy. Being enrolled in the British Archæological Association would be title enough; for the simple fact of being devoted to pursuits of this description, ought to be admitted as proof of intellectual ability and respectability, which should make the candidate, lowest perhaps in the gifts of station and fortune, an eligible associate, fully as far as such institutions require, for the most exalted in rank and the most powerful in wealth. For how graceful are the contentions in these republics! The highest ambition of the humblest jostles no superior, creates no fear, excites no envy. The utmost efforts of the loftiest, only endear them to their fellow-workers in the same emulative line, and as a touch of nature makes all men kin, so may we truly say of literary cultivation, it disposes all men to friendliness and mutual assistance. In our Club, then, peers would have no dislike to meeting with the informed husbandman, nor the heads of the Church with the unpresuming lay-brother. A cairn or a barrow would make them companions; and as we have hinted with respect to minds imbued with and regulated by a love of research and similarity of intelligence, there would not be the slightest risk of undue or incongruous intrusion.
In connection with the Museum a Library would be indispensable; and it is reasonable to expect, from donations, that it would speedily be one of valuable reference: and, as in the formation of the Museum, an exchange of duplicates might add greatly both to its establishment and increase. But it will be said, that though these may be desiderata, they must be attended with cost; and where are the funds to come from? In answer, I would state that the Club, even at a moderate entrance-fee and annual subscription, in comparison with other clubs in London, would well support itself. But as an adjunct I would suggest that every member who frequented the Museum and Library, should pay ten shillings for every year he availed himself of their resources. Perhaps it might further be deserving of consideration how far the social accommodations of the Club could be placed at the disposal of members visiting the metropolis from the country, and seeking at the same time to consult what the association had accumulated, and to mingle more freely with the associates in town than they could do if scattered in hotels and lodging-houses. Supposing that out of the vast number of gentry, clergy, and provincial antiquaries, with whom we are courting a steady inter- communication, there are hundreds who only come to London occasionally and for brief periods, it is not easy to overrate the pleasure and economy of such accommodation as could thus be readily provided, with saving to them individually, and profit to the funds of the general body.
In the event of these hints being adopted and acted upon, the yearly revenues of the Association would be large enough to bear the expense of antiquarian operations upon a greater scale than could otherwise be undertaken. There would be
1. The voluntary subscriptions.
2. The guinea subscriptions at the anniversaries.
3. The ten shillings for the use of museum and library.
4. The entrance-fee for the club: say five guineas.
5. The annual payments to it: and
6. The occasional payments of country visiters.
From all which sources combined, there cannot be a question but that a very important amount would be annually raised, conducing much to the comfort and information of members, and to the extension and prosperity of the Association, and leaving a surplus for such purposes as time and experience pointed out as expedient for perfecting the design.
A severe illness having prevented me from the much-anticipated enjoyment of the British Archæological Meeting at Canterbury, but rejoicing to hear of the sure foundations it has laid for the fulfilment of all I have hoped from the institution, I beg leave to add a few words to the hasty suggestions I had thus far committed to the Secretaries, (with the intention of revising and extending,) should they be deemed worthy of being read.
My purpose is only to request my fellow-members not to be startled by any of my propositions, and like all the sceptics in regard to new views or plans, start hastily into opposition to what they may at first sight think impracticable or inapplicable. Rome was not built in a day; nor is there one of these hints for the future offered except for mature deliberation as the Society rises in power and importance. Nor is there one of them so connected with the rest, that, if deemed worthy, it might not be adopted whilst the others were postponed or dismissed.
But I trust I may be permitted to say that none have been rashly thrown out, nor indeed without much consideration; and had I not been, so much to my regret, disabled by sickness from taking part in the proceedings, I should have been ready with strong arguments to support the opinions I have ventured to indicate. No inconsiderable experience in the formation and early care of now great National Associations, may, I trust, entitle what I have put together, however roughly, to be thought of in due time, not as vague or sanguine speculations, but parts or wheels which may be incorporated into this great antiquarian machine, with advantage to its practical working, and with satisfaction to all who may take an interest in enlarging and improving its operations.
Praying at any rate forgiveness for the imperfections of a sick couch, I heartily congratulate the Association on the splendid result of its first public effort. Esto perpetua.