Page:The Ancestor Number 1.djvu/76

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36 THE ANCESTOR HERALDRY REVIVED A WHOLE bay of the library of the Society of Antiquaries is given up to the books which treat of heraldry. A bushy

  1. * growth has sprung up round this unhappy subject, a maze or

' Troy Town in which wanderers, studious of the beaten track, mark out fresh blind alleys with their stumblings. More than a generation ago there came to the gate of this maze one Mr. James Robinson Planche. Being no antiquary by training, but a writer of burlesques, he took his eyes ofF the ground and looking over the hedges saw the level green in the middle. For the first time in the history of heraldic study heraldry was, as his title page boasted, to be ' founded on facts.' Cer- tainly he pushed his way forward with little regard for the ordered paths of precedent ; but his play writing encroached on his hours for original study, and his work, although it saw several editions, remains shallow and hastily-conceived, the child of a very thin notebook. From a Pursuivant of Arms of his own creation he became Rouge Croix Pursuivant of Arms and a member of a college of augurs, whose high pon- tiff, as we may gather from a preface to one of his later editions, had no sympathetic eye for critical thumbing of the sacred books of the caste. For one reason or another the task which this pioneer set himself remains for us to make an end of, an end best achieved by the levelling of the whole maze. This beginning of a new century sees the antiquary abroad. The antiquary as the early nineteenth century knew him, a fusty person enamoured of fustiness, lingers in our dark places, but the new school of English archaeology, building fact upon the sure foundation of fact and adding daily to the mass of our knowledge of the past of our race, is up and doing with a more reasonable enthusiasm. Architect antiquaries are telling every stone of our ancient houses and churches ; topographer antiquaries are writing the history of the land to the twelve- inch scale ; folk-lore antiquaries are garnering in what remains of old English custom and tradition ; genealogist antiquaries are hewing with critical axes amongst the stately family trees, under whose shade their forerunners were content to walk reverently. It is , making no undue claim for heraldry to say