Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/254

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

but reflection showed that his collecting powers would be unduly limited by so costly a purchase, and he therefore decided to appeal to his friends for help. The contributors included some of the city companies ; the balance, about 800/., was paid by the treasury.

An amusement of his later years was the collecting of book-plates (ex libris), which had its origin in his friendship with John Byrne Leicester Warren, lord de Tabley [q.v.] His immense collection is now in the British Museum. It served to pass agreeably many hours when ill-health prevented more serious work.

Apart from his direct benefactions to the British Museum, the charm of his personality, as well as the signal help he was often able to render, caused many of his intimate friends to leave their collections to the museum for which he had done so much. There can be little doubt that to his influence was mainly due the acquisition of the collections of Felix Slade [q. v.], John Henderson (1797-1878) [q. v.], Lady Fellows [see Fellows, Sir Charles], William Burges [q. v.], and Mr. Octavius Morgan.

Franks's services to the state and to archæology were not, however, confined to the walls of the museum. He was commissioned by the government to examine and report on the proposed purchase of the collection of George Petrie [q. v.], the Irish antiquary, and it is to his favourable report that Dublin owes the possession of these important antiquities. Later he was asked by the chancellor of the exchequer, George Ward Hunt [q. v.], to report on the famous Meyrick collection [see Meyrick, Sir Samuel Rush], which had been offered to the government for purchase ; his report was favourable, but a short-sighted economy prevented the acquisition. The collection was sold piecemeal, and the principal objects went abroad. As the juror in the section of pottery at the Paris exhibition of 1878, Franks was able to render good service to this important English industry, and at the same time to increase his knowledge of the processes of the modern potter.

In 1873 Lord Ripon wished to ascertain whether it would be possible to transfer the administration of the South Kensington Museum to the trustees of the British Museum, and Franks was a member of the committee appointed to consider the matter, but the committee unfortunately reported against the scheme.

A somewhat original mission was proposed to Franks in 1890, when the Swiss government wished to establish a national museum. As the central authority found itself unable to decide between the rival claims of the various towns, the intervention of foreign authorities was invited, and Franks, M. Darcel of the Louvre, and Dr. Essenwein of Niirnberg, made a tour of Switzerland, inspecting the sites for the museum and the art treasures and antiquities available in the various towns. The decision was in favour of Berne, but the Swiss national museum was nevertheless established at Zurich.

With the Society of Antiquaries Franks was long closely identified. He was elected a fellow in 1853, and in 1858 accepted the responsible post of director, which he held until 1867, when the duties of his newly created department at the museum forced him to resign. But in 1873 he again occupied the same post, and held it till 1880. His wide range of knowledge made his presence at the meetings of great value to the society, while as editor of 'Archæologia' his knowledge and accuracy were utilised in a more permanent way. His own contributions to 'Archæologia' and 'Proceedings' were neither few nor unimportant; and unfortunately it is only in this form that shreds of his great learning are preserved, ranging in these two publications from prehistoric implements and exploration at Carthage to an important correction of date in connection with the will of Holbein. His principal antiquarian discovery was in the differentiation of a class of prehistoric antiquities to which he applied the term 'Late Celtic,' and he rightly claimed that the highest development of this special form of art was to be found in our islands. His theory was very generally accepted, but it found a strong and persistent opponent in Dr. Lindenschmit of Mayence. He was often pressed to accept the office of president of the society, but uniformly declined, until his retirement from the museum was imminent, for the practical reason that as the president was ex officio a trustee of the museum, he could not act in the dual capacity of keeper and an active trustee, and thus the society would lose its representative on the board. He became president in 1891, however, and remained in office till his death. As soon as he had retired from the keepership in 1896, the trustees paid him the high compliment of electing him to the standing committee.

In 1894 Franks was made K.C.B. In 1889 the honorary degree of Litt.D. was conferred on him by the university of Cambridge, and the university of Oxford created him D.C.L. in 1895. He was elected F.R.S. in 1874. The Royal Academy appointed him in 1894 their 'Antiquary' in succession to his old