Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/137

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

in plaster and gypsum,' but also 'to take away any pieces of stone with old inscriptions or figures thereon.' The actual removal of ancient marbles from Athens formed no part of Elgin's original plan, but the constant injuries suffered by the sculptures of the Parthenon and other monuments at the hands of the Turks induced him to undertake it. The collection thus formed by operations at Athens, and by explorations in other parts of Greece, and now known by the name of the 'Elgin Marbles,' consists of portions of the frieze, metopes, and pedimental sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as of sculptured slabs from the Athenian temple of Nike Apteros, and of various antiquities from Attica and other districts of Hellas. These sculptures and antiquities, now in our national collection, may be found enumerated and illustrated in the 'Description of the Collection of Ancient Marbles in the British Museum' (parts vi-ix.), in Michaelis's work 'Der Parthenon,' and in other archæological books. Part of the Elgin collection was prepared for embarkation for England in 1803, considerable difficulties having to be encountered at every stage of its transit. Elgin's vessel, the Mentor, was unfortunately wrecked near Cerigo with its cargo of marbles, and it was not till after the labours of three years, and the expenditure of a large sum of money, that the marbles were successfully recovered by the divers. On Elgin's departure from Turkey in 1803, he withdrew all his artists from Athens with the exception of Lusieri, who remained to direct the excavations which were still carried on, though on a much reduced scale. Additions continued to be made to the Elgin collections, and as late as 1812 eighty fresh cases of antiquities arrived in England. Elgin, who had been 'detained' in France after the rupture of the peace of Amiens, returned to England in 1806. No inconsiderable outcry was raised against his conduct in connection with the removal of the antiquities. The propriety of his official actions was called in question ; he was accused of vandalism, of rapacity and dishonesty, and in addition to these accusations, which found their most exaggerated expression in Byron's 'Curse of Minerva,' an attempt was even made to minimise the artistic importance of the marbles which had been removed. Elgin accordingly thought it advisable to throw open his collections to public view, and arranged them in his own house in Park Lane, and afterwards at Burlington House, Piccadilly. Upon the supreme merits of the Parthenon sculptures all competent art critics were henceforth agreed. Canova, when he saw them, pronounced them the works of the ablest artists the world has seen.' After some preliminary negotiations, a select committee of the House of Commons was appointed in 1816 to inquire into the desirability of acquiring the Elgin collection for the nation. This committee recommended its purchase for the sum of 35,000l., and in July 1816 an act was passed giving effect to their proposal. The committee, after a careful examination of Elgin and other witnesses, further decided in favour of the ambassador's conduct, and of his claim to the ownership of the antiquities. The money spent by Elgin in the formation, removal, and arrangement of his collection, and the sums disbursed for the salaries and board of his artists at Athens, were estimated at no less than 74,000l. Elgin was from 1790 to 1840 one of the representative peers of Scotland, but after his return to England he took little part in public affairs. He died on 14 Nov. 1841.

[Peerages of Burke and Foster ; Douglas's Peerage of Scotland (ed. Wood), i. 522 f. ; Memorandum on the Earl of Elgin's Pursuits in Greece, 1810 and 1815; Report from the Select Committee on the Earl of Elgin's Collection, 1816 ; Ellis's Elgin Marbles, pp. 1-10 ; Edwards's Lives of the Founders of the Brit. Mus., 1870, pt. i. pp. 380-96; Michaelis's Der Parthenon, pp. 73-87, 348-57 ; Michaelis's Ancient Marbles in Great Britain, pp. 132-51.]

W. W.

BRUCE, Sir WILLIAM (d. 1710), of Kinross, architect in Scotland to Charles II, was the second son of Robert Bruce of Blairhall, by his wife, Catherine, daughter of Sir John Preston of Valleyfield, and was born in the early part of the seventeenth century. Though too young to have played a part in the troublous reign of Charles I, no one in Scotland probably contributed more in a private capacity to bring about the restoration of the royal family, to whom he proved a firm and constant friend. He is said to have been the channel of communication between General Monk and the young king, and to have had the honour of first conveying to the latter the inclination of the former to serve him. Being a man of ability and address, he retained the friendship of the monarch, who rewarded him in the very year of the restoration with the office of clerk to the bills, a very beneficial one in those days. Eight years after, having acquired the lands of Balcashie in Fife, he was created a baronet by royal letters patent dated 21 April 1668. He soon after acquired possession of the lands of Drumeldrie, in the same county, his title to which is dated 18 April 1670, and having afterwards