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MRs ELIZABETH INCHBALD, an actress, dramatist, and novelist, produced a number of popular plays. Her two tales, The Simple Story, and Nature and Art, are the principal sources of her fame; but her light dramatic pieces are marked by various talent. Her first production was a farce entitled The Mogul Tale, brought out in 1784, and from this time, down to 1805, she wrote nine other plays and farces. By some of these pieces (as appears from her memoirs) she received considerable sums of money. Her first production realised £100; her comedy of Such Things Are (her greatest dramatic performance) brought her in £410, 12s. ; The Married Man, £100; The Wedding Day, £200; The Midnight Hour, 4:130; Every One Has His Fault, £700; Wives as they Were, and Maids as they Are, £427, 10s. ; Lovers' Vows, £150; &c. The personal history of this lady is as singular as any of her dramatic plots. She was born of Roman Catholic parents residing at Standyfield, near Bury St Edmunds, in the year 1753. At the age of sixteen, full of giddy romance, she ran off to London, having with her a small sum of money, and some wearing apparel in a bandbox. After various adventures, she obtained an engagement for a country theatre, but suffering some personal indignities in her unprotected state, she applied to Mr Inchbald, an actor whom she had previously known. The gentleman counselled marriage. “But who would marry me?’ cried the lady. “I would, replied her friend, “if you would have me.’ ‘Yes, sir, and would for ever be grateful’—and married they were in a few days. The union thus singularly brought about seems to have been happy enough; but Mr Inchbald died a few years afterwards. Mrs Inchbald performed the first parts in the Edinburgh theatre for four years, and continued on the stage, acting in London, Dublin, &c. till 1789, when she quitted it for ever. Her exemplary prudence, and the profits of her works, enabled her not only to live, but to save money. The applause and distinction with which she was greeted never led her to deviate from her simple and somewhat parsimonious habits.
“Last Thursday,” she writes, “I finished scouring my
bed-room, while a coach with a coronet and two
footmen waited at my door to take me an airing.’ She allowed a sister who was in ill health £100 ayear. ‘Many a time this winter, she records in her diary, “when I cried for cold, I said to myself, “but, thank God! my sister has not to stir from her room; she has her fire lighted every morning; all her provisions bought and brought ready cooked; she is now the less able to bear what I bear; and how much more should I suffer but for this reflection.”” This was noble and generous self-denial. The income of Mrs Inchbald was now £172 per annum, and, after the death of her sister, she went to reside in a boarding house, where she enjoyed more of the comforts of life. Traces of female weakness break out in her private memoranda amidst the sterner records of her struggle for independence. The following entry is amusing: “ 1798. London. Rehearsing “Lovers' Vows;” happy, but for a suspicion, amounting to a certainty, of a rapid appearance of age in my face.' Her last literary labour was writing biographical and critical prefaces to a collection of plays, in twenty-five volumes; a collection of farces, in seven volumes; and the Modern Theatre, in ten volumes. Phillips, the publisher, offered her a thousand pounds for her memoirs, but she declined the tempting offer. This autobiography was, by her own orders, destroyed after her decease; but in 1833, her Memoirs were published by Mr Boaden, compiled from an autograph journal which she kept for above fifty years, and from her letters written to her friends. Mrs Inchbald died in a boarding-house at Kensington on the 1st of August 1821. By her will, dated four months before her decease, she left about £6000, judiciously divided amongst her relatives. One of her legacies marks the eccentricity of thought and conduct which was mingled with the talents and virtues of this originalminded woman: she left £20 each to her late laundress and hair-dresser, provided they should inquire of her executors concerning her decease.
Thom AS HOLCROFT.
THoMAs HolcroFT, author of the admired comedy, The Road to Ruin, and the first to introduce the melo-drama into England, was born in London on the 10th of December 1745. ‘Till I was six years old,” says Holcroft, ‘my father kept a shoemaker's shop in Orange Court; and I have a faint recollection that my mother dealt in greens and oysters.' Humble as this condition was, it seems to llave been succeeded by greater poverty, and the future dramatist and comedian was employed in the country by his parents to hawk goods as a pedlar. He was afterwards engaged as a stable-boy at Newmarket, and
was proud of his new livery. A charitable person,
who kept a school at Newmarket, taught him to read. He was afterwards a rider on the turf; and when sixteen years of age, he worked for some time with his father as a shoemaker. A passion for books was at this time predominant, and the confinement of the shoemaker's stall not agreeing with him, he attempted to raise a school in the country. He afterwards became a provincial actor, and spent seven years in strolling about England, in every variety of wretchedness, with different companies. In 1780 Holcroft appeared as an author, his first work being a novel, entitled Alwyn, or the Gentleman Comedian. In the following year his comedy of Duplicity was acted with great success at Covent Garden. Another comedy, The Deserted Daughter, experienced a very favourable reception; but The Road to Ruin is universally acknowledged to be the best of his dramatic works. ‘This comedy,’ says Mrs Inchbald, “ranks among the most successful of modern plays. There is merit in the writing, but much more in that dramatic science which disposes character, scenes, and dialogue with minute attention to theatric exhibition.’ Holcroft wrote a great number of dramatic pieces—more than thirty between the years 1778 and 1806; three other novels (Anna St Ives, Hugh Trevor, and Bryan Perdue); besides a Tour in Germany and France, and numerous translations from the German, and French, and Italian. During the period of the French Revolution he was a zealous reformer, and on hearing that his name was included in the same bill of indictment with Tooke and Hardy, he surrendered himself in open court, but no proof of guilt was ever adduced against him. His busy and remarkable life was terminated on the 23d of March 1809.
John Tobin was a sad example, as Mrs Inchbald has remarked, ‘of the fallacious hopes by which half mankind are allured to vexatious enterprise. He passed many years in the anxious labour of writing plays, which were rejected by the managers; and no sooner had they accepted The Honey-Moon,
than he died, and never enjoyed the recompense of |
seeing it performed.’ Tobin was born at Salisbury in the year 1770, and educated for the law. In 1785 he was articled to an eminent solicitor of Lincoln's Inn, and afterwards entered into business himself. Such, however, was his devotion to the drama, that before the age of twenty-four he had written several plays. His attachment to literary composition did not withdraw him from his legal engagements; but his time was incessantly occupied, and symptoms of consumption began to appear. A change of climate was recommended, and Tobin went first to Cornwall, and thence to Bristol, where he embarked for the West Indies. The vessel arriving at Cork, was detained there for some days; but on the 7th of December 1804, it sailed from that port, on which day—without any apparent change in his disorder to indicate the approach of death—the invalid expired. Before quitting London, Tobin had left the “Honey-Moon” with his brother, the manager having given a promise that it should be performed. Its success was instant and decisive, and it is still a favourite acting play. Two other pieces by the same author (The Curfew, and The School for Authors) were subsequently brought forward, but they are of inferior merit. The “Honey-Moon' is a romantic drama, partly in blank verse, and written somewhat in the style of Beaumont and Fletcher. The scene is laid
| I'll have no glittering gewgaws stuck about you, To stretch the gaping eyes of idiot wonder, And make men stare upon a piece of earth As on the star-wrought firmament—no feathers To wave as streamers to your vanity— | Nor cumbrous silk, that, with its rustling sound, Makes proud the flesh that bears it. She's adorned Amply, that in her husband's eye looks lovely— The truest mirror that an honest wife Can see her beauty in' Jul. I shall observe, sir. Duke. I should like well to see you in the dress I last presented you. Jul. The blue one, sir? Duke. No, love—the white. Thus modestly attired, A half-blown rose stuck in thy braided hair, With no more diamonds than those eyes are made of No deeper rubies than compose thy lips, Nor pearls more precious than inhabit them; With the pure red and white, which that same hand Which blends the rainbow mingles in thy cheeks; This well-proportioned form (think not I flatter) In graceful motion to harmonious sounds, And thy free tresses dancing in the wind; Thou'lt fix as much observance, as chaste dames Can meet, without a blush.
John o'KEEFE—FREDERIck REYNoLDs—THoxias Morton.
John O'KEEFE, a prolific farce writer, was born || in Dublin in 1746. While studying the art of drawing to fit him for an artist, he imbibed a passion for the stage, and commenced the career of an actor in his native city. He produced generally some dramatic piece every year for his benefit, and one of these, entitled Tony Lumpkin, was played with success at the Haymarket theatre, London, in 1778. He continued supplying the theatres with new pieces, and up to the year 1809, had written, in all, about fifty plays and farces. Most of these were denominated comic operas or musical farces, and some of them enjoyed great success. The Agreeable Surprise, Wild Oats, Modern Antiques, Fontainbleau, The Highland Reel, Love in a Camp, The Poor Soldier, and Sprigs of Laurel, are still favourites, especially the first, in which the character of Lingo, the schoolmaster, is a laughable piece of broad humour. O'Keefe's writings, it is said, were merely intended to make people laugh, and they have fully answered that intent. The lively dramatist was in his latter years afflicted with blindness, and in 1800 he obtained a benefit at Covent Garden theatre, on which occasion he was led forward by Mr Lewis, the actor, and delivered a poetical address. He died at Southampton on the 4th of February 1833, having reached the advanced age of 86.
FREDERick REYNoLDs (1765–1841) was one of the most voluminous of dramatists, author of seventeen popular comedies, and, altogether, of about a hundred dramatic pieces. He served Covent Garden for forty years in the capacity of what he called “thinker'—that is, performer of every kind of literarylabour required in the establishment. Among his best productions are, The Dramatist, Laugh when you Can, The Delinquent, The Will, Folly as it Flies, Life, Management, Notoriety, How to Grow Rich, The Rage, Speculation, The Blind Bargain, Fortune's Fool, &c. &c. Of these, the “Dramatist’ is the best. The hero Wapid, the dramatic author, who goes to Bath “to pick up characters,’ is a laughable caricature, in which it is said the author drew a likeness of himself; for, like Wapid, he had “the ardor scribendi upon him so strong, that he would rather you'd ask him to write an epilogue or a scene than offer him
your whole estate—the theatre was his world, in
| well arranged for effect, with occasionally a mixture
of pathos and tragic or romantic incident. In the closet, these works fail to arrest attention; for their merits are more artistic than literary, and the improbability of many of the incidents appears glaring when submitted to sober inspection. Various new pieces have since been produced in the London theatres by Messrs Poole, Theodore Hook, Planche, Jerrold, Buckstone, &c. The novels of Sir Walter Scott and Mr Dickens have been dramatised with considerable success; but most of these recent productions require the aids of good acting, music, and scenery, to render them tolerable. There is no want of novelties; but the wit, the sprightly dialogue, and genuine life of the true
English comedy, may be said to be extinct.
native talent and exertion. The highly-wrought tenderness and pathos of Richardson, and the models of real life, wit, and humour in Fielding, Smollett, and Sterne, produced a few excellent imitations. The fictions of Mackenzie, Dr Moore, Miss Burney, and Cumberland, are all greatly superior to the ordinary run of novels, and stand at the head of the second class. These writers, however, exercised but little influence on the national taste: they supported the dignity and respectability of the novel, but did not extend its dominion; and accordingly we find that there was a long dull period in which this delightful species of composition had sunk into general contempt. There was no lack of novels, but they were of a very inferior and even debased description. In place of natural incident, character, and dialogue, we had affected and ridiculous sentimentalism—plots utterly absurd or pernicious—and stories of love and honour so maudlin in conception and drivelling in execution, that it is surprising they could ever have been tolerated even by the most defective moral sense or taste. The circulating libraries in town and country swarmed with these worthless productions (known from their place of publication by the misnomer of the ‘Minerva Press’ novels); but their perusal was in a great measure confined to young people of both sexes of imperfect education, or to half-idle inquisitive persons, whose avidity for excitement was not restrained by delicacy or judgment.
| In many cases, even in the humblest walks of life,
this love of novel-reading amounted to a passion as strong and uncontrollable as that of dram-drinking;
and, fed upon such garbage as we have described, it was scarcely less injurious; for it dwarfed the intellectual faculties, and unfitted its votaries equally for the study or relish of sound literature, and for the proper performance and enjoyment of the actual duties of the world. The enthusiastic novel reader got bewildered and entangled among love-plots and high-flown adventures, in which success was often awarded to profligacy, and, among scenes of pretended existence, exhibited in the masquerade attire of a distempered fancy. Instead, therefore, of
Truth severe by fairy Fiction dressed,
we had Falsehood decked out in frippery and nonsense, and courting applause from its very extravagance. The first successful inroad on this accumulating mass of absurdity was made by Charlotte Smith, whose works may be said to hold a middle station between the true and the sentimental in fictitious composition. Shortly afterwards succeeded the political tales of Holcroft and Godwin, the latter animated by the fire of genius, and possessing great intellectual power and energy. The romantic fables of Mrs Radcliffe were also, as literary productions, a vast improvement on the old novels; and in their moral effects they were less mischievous, for the extraordinary machinery employed by the authoress was so far removed from the common course of human affairs and experience, that no one could think of drawing it into a precedent in ordinary circumstances. At no distant interval Miss Edgeworth came forward with her moral lessons and satirical portraits, daily advancing in her powers as in her desire to increase the virtues, prudence, and substantial happiness of life; Mrs Opie told her pathetic and graceful domestic tales; and Miss Austen exhibited her exquisite delineations of every-day English society and character. To crown all, Sir Walter Scott commenced, in 1814, his brilliant gallery of portraits of all classes, living and historical, which completely exterminated the monstrosities of the Minerva press, and inconceivably extended the circle of novel readers. Fictitious composition was now again in the ascendant, and never, in its palmiest days of chivalrous romance or modern fashion, did it command more devoted admiration, or shine with greater lustre. The public taste underwent a rapid and important change; and as curiosity was stimulated and supplied in such unexampled profusion from this master-source, the most exorbitant devourers of novels soon learned to look with aversion and disgust on the painted and unreal mockeries which had formerly deluded them. It appears to be a law of our nature, that recreation and amusement are as necessary to the mind as exercise is to the body, and in this light Sir Walter Scott must be viewed as one of the greatest benefactors of his species. He has supplied a copious and almost exhaustless source of amusement, as innocent as it is delightful. He revived the glories of past ages; illustrated the landscape and the history of his native country; painted the triumphs of patriotism and virtue, and the meanness and misery of vice; awakened our best and kindliest feelings in favour of suffering and erring humanity—of the low-born and the persecuted, the peasant, the beggar, and the Jew; he has furnished an intellectual banquet, as rich as it is various and picturesque, from his curious learning, extensive observation, forgotten manners, and decaying superstitions—the whole embellished with the lights of a vivid imagination, and a correct and gracefully regulated taste. In the number and variety of his conceptions and characters, Scott is entitled to take his seat beside the greatest masters of fiction, British or foreign. Some have excelled him in particular qualities of the novelist, but none in their harmonious and rich combination. We had now a new race of imitators, aiming at a high standard of excellence, both as respects the design and the execution of their works. The peculiarities of Scottish manners in humble life, which Scott had illustrated in his early novels, were successfully developed by Galt, and in a more tender and imaginative light by Wilson. Galt, indeed, has high merit as a minute painter: his delineations, like those of Allan Ramsay, bring home to his countrymen “traits of undefinable expression, which had escaped every eye but that of familiar affection.’ His pathos is the simple grief of nature. In this painting of national manners, Scott's example was allpotent. From Scotland it spread to Ireland. Miss Edgeworth, indeed, had previously portrayed the lights and shades of the Irish character, and in this respect was the preceptress of Scott. But with all her talent and penetration, this excellent authoress can scarcely be said to have reached the heart of her subject, and she stirred up no enthusiasm among her countrymen. Miss Edgeworth pursued her high vocation as a moral teacher. Miss Owenson, who
had, as early as 1807, published her Wild Irish Girl,
world, to the general reader.
continued (as Lady Morgan) her striking and humorous pictures of Irish society, and they were afterwards greatly surpassed by Banim, Griffin, Lover, Carleton, and others. The whole soil of Ireland, and its races of people, have been laid open, like a new English history was in like manner ransacked for materials for fiction. Scott had shown how much could be done in this department by gathering up the scattered fragments of antiquarian research, or entering with the spirit and skill of genius into the manners and events of a bygone age. He had vivified and embodied—not described—the past. Many authors have followed in his train—Mr IIorace Smith, Mr James, Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer, Ainsworth, and other men of talent and genius. Classic and foreign manners were also depicted. The Valerius of Lockhart is an exquisite Roman story; Morier and Fraser have familiarised us with the domestic life of Persia; Mr Hope, in his Anastasius, has drawn the scenery and
manners of Italy, Greece, and Turkey, with the
fidelity and minuteness of a native artist, and the impassioned beauty of a poet; while the character and magnificent natural features of America—its trackless forests, lakes, wild Indian tribes, and antique settlers—have been depicted by its gifted sons, Irving and Cooper. All these may be said to have been prompted by the national and historical romances of Scott. The current of imagination and description had been turned from verse to prose. The stage also caught the enthusiasm; and the tales which had charmed in the closet were reproduced, with scenic effect, in our theatres. The fashionable novels of Theodore Hook formed a new feature in modern fiction. His first series of Sayings and Doings appeared in 1824, and attracted considerable attention. The principal object of these clever tales was to describe manners in high-life, and the ridiculous and awkward assumption of them by citizens and persons in the middle ranks. As the author advanced in his career, he extended his canvass, and sketched a greater variety of scenes and figures. Their general character, however, remained the same : too much importance was, in all of them, attached to the mere externals of social intercourse, as if the use of the ‘silver fork,” or the etiquette of the drawing-room, were “the be-all and the end-all’ of English society. The life of the accomplished
author gives a sad and moral interest to his tales. He obtained the distinction he coveted, in the notice and favour of the great and the fashionable world; for this he sacrificed the fruits of his industry and the independence of genius; he lived in a round of distraction and gaiety, illuminated by his wit and talents, and he died a premature death, the victim of disappointment, debt, and misery. This personal example is the true “handwriting on the wall,' to warn genius and integrity in the middle classes against hunting after or copying the vices of fashionable dissipation and splendour ! Mr Ward, Lord Normanby, Mrs Trollope, Lady Blessington, and others, followed up these tales of high-life with perfect knowledge of the subject, wit, refinement, and sarcasm, but certainly with less vigour and less real knowledge of mankind than Theodore Hook. Bulwer imparted to it the novelty and attraction of strong contrast, by conducting his fashionable characters into the purlieus of vice and slang society, which also in its turn became the rage, and provoked imitation. “Dandies' and highwaymen were painted en beau, and the Newgate Calendar was rifled for heroes to figure in the novel and on the stage. This unnatural absurdity soon palled upon the public taste, and Bulwer did justice to his high and undoubted talents by his historical and more legitimate romances. Among the most original of our living novelists should be included Captain Marryat, the parent, in his own person and in that of others, of a long progeny of nautical tales and sketches. The last and, next to Scott, the greatest of modern writers of fiction, is Mr Charles Dickens, who also deals with low-life and national peculiarities, especially such as spring up in the streets and resorts of crowded cities. The varied surface of English society, in the ordinary and middle ranks, has afforded this close observer and humorist a rich harvest of characters, scenes, and adventures—of follies, oddities, vices, and frailties, of which he has made a copious and happy use. In comic humour, blended with tenderness and pathos, and united to unrivalled powers of observation and description, Dickens has no equal among his contemporaries; and as a painter of actual life, he seems to be the most genuine English novelist we have had since Fielding. His faults lie upon the surface. Like Bulwer, he delights in strong colouring and contrasts—the melodrame of fiction—and is too prone to caricature. The artist, delighting in the exhibition of his skill, is apparent in many of his scenes, where probability and nature are sacrificed for effect. But there is “a spirit of goodness’ at the heart of all Dickens's stories, and a felicitous humour and fancy, which are unknown to Bulwer and his other rivals. His vivid pictures of those poor in-door sufferers “in populous city pent’ have directed sympathy to the obscure dwellers in lanes and alleys, and may prove the precursor of practical amelioration. He has made fietion the handmaid of humanity and benevolence, without losing its companionship with wit and laughter.
The hearty cordiality of his mirth, his warm and kindly feelings, alive to whatever interests or amuses others, and the undisguised pleasure, ‘brimming o'er, with which he enters upon every scene of humble city-life and family affection, make us in love with human nature in situations and under circumstances rarely penetrated by the light of imagination. He is a sort of discoverer in the moral world, and has found an El Dorado in the outskirts and byways of humanity where previous explorers saw little but dirt and ashes, and could not gather a single flower. This is the triumph of genius, as beneficial as it is brilliant and irresistible. It will be remarked that a large proportion of the
conduct and more subtle developments of character, they are peculiarly qualified for the task of exhibiting faithfully and pleasingly the various phases of domestic life, and those varieties which chequer the surface of society. Accordingly, their delineations, though perhaps less vigorous than those afforded by the other sex, are distinguished, for the most part, by greater fidelity and consistency, a more refined and happy discrimination, and, we must also add, a more correct estimate of right and wrong. In works which come from a female pen, we are seldom offended by those moral monstrosities, those fantastic perversions of principle, which are too often to be met with in the fictions which have been written by men. Women are less stilted in their style;
they are more content to describe naturally what
they have observed, without attempting the introduction of those extraneous ornaments which are sometimes sought at the expense of truth. They are less ambitious, and are therefore more just; they are far more exempt from that prevailing literary vice of the present day, exaggeration, and have not taken their stand among the feverish followers of what may be called the intense style of writing; a style much praised by those who inquire only if a work is calculated to make a strong impression, and omit entirely the more important question, whether that impression be founded on truth or on delusion. Hence the agonies and convulsions, and dreamy
rhapsodies, and heated exhibitions of stormy pas
sions, in which several of our writers have lately indulged. Imagination has been flattered into a selfsufficient abandonment of its alliance with judgment, to which disunion it is ever least prone where it has most real power; and “fine creations” (well so called, as being unlike anything previously existing in nature) have been lauded, in spite of their internal falsity, as if they were of more value than the most accurate delineations of that world which we see around us.”
FRANCEs BURNEY (MADAME D'ARBLAY).
FRANCEs BURNEY, authoress of Evelina and Cecilia, was the wonder and delight of the generation of novel readers succeeding that of Fielding and Smollett, and she has maintained her popularity better than most secondary writers of fiction. Her name has been lately revived by the publication of her Diary and Letters, containing some clever sketches of society and manners, notices of the court of George III., and anecdotes of Johnson, Burke, Reynolds, &c. Miss Burney was the second daughter of Dr Burney, author of the History of Music. She was born at Lynn-Regis, in the county of Norfolk, on the 13th of June 1752. Her father was organist in Lynn, but in 1760 he removed to London (where he had previously resided), and
numbered among his familiar friends and visitors |
David Garrick, Sir Robert Strange the engraver, the poets Mason and Armstrong, Barry the painter, and other persons distinguished in art and literature. Such society must have had a highly beneficial effect on his family, and accordingly we find they all made themselves distinguished: one son rose to be an
* Edinburgh Review for 1830.
admiral; the second son, Charles. Burney, became a celebrated Greek scholar; both the daughters were novelists.” . Fanny was long held to be a sort of prodigy. At eight years of age she did not even know her letters, but she was shrewd and observant. At fifteen she had written several tales, was a great reader, and even a critic. Her authorship was continued in secret, her sister only being aware
of the circumstance. In this way, it is said, she had composed “Evelina' when she was only seventeen. The novel, however, was not published till January 1778, when “little Fanny’ was in her twenty-sixth year; and the wonderful precocity of “Miss in her teens’ may be dismissed as at least doubtful. The work was offered to Dodsley the publisher, but rejected, as the worthy bibliopole “declined looking at anything anonymous.” Another bookseller, named Lowndes, agreed to publish it, and gave £20 for the manuscript. Evelina, or a Young Lady's Entrance into the World, soon became |. the talk of the town. Dr Burney, in the fulness of his heart, told Mrs Thrale that “our Fanny’ was the author, and Dr Johnson protested to Mrs Thrale that there were passages in it which might do honour to Richardson 1 Miss Burney was invited to Streatham, the country residence of the Thrales, and there she met Johnson and his illustrious band of friends, of whom we have ample notices in the Diary. Wherever she went, to London, Bath, or Tunbridge, “Evelina' was the theme of praise, and Miss Burney the happiest of authors. In 1782 apd, her second work, “Cecilia,’ which is more highly finished than “Evelina, but less rich in comic characters and dialogue. Miss Burney having gone to reside for a short time with Mrs Delany, a venerable lady, the friend of Swift, once connected with
* Rear-Admiral James Burney accompanied Captain Cook in two of his voyages, and was author of a History of Voyages of Discovery, 5 vols. Quarto, and an Account of the Russian Eastern Voyages. He died in 1820. Dr Charles Burney wrote several critical works on the Greek classics, was a prebendary of Lincoln, and one of the king's chaplains. After his death, in 1817, the valuable library of this great scholar was purchased by government for the British Museum.