HC Deb 11 April 1821 vol 5 cc155-6
Mr. Lennard,

in submitting the motion of which he had given notice, stated, that his object was to put the House in possession of the number of persons who, in the last five years, had applied for admission to the reading-room of the British Museum without success. It appeared, indeed, by the returns, that the number of admissions was exactly equal to the number of applications, and that the greatest inconvenience to which applicants were subjected by the present regulations, was merely a postponement as it was called. But when this postponement was continued till the person applying for admission obtained a recommendation from a trustee, or an officer of the house, in many cases it must amount to a refusal. All he thought necessary was, that the officers should ascertain that the persons applying were of that respectability and station in life, which, were they personally known to them, would procure their admission. The names of all the persons who had applied within the last five years might easily be furnished; and if no list had been kept of those whose applications had been postponed, then another mode must be taken to ascertain their numbers, and he must apply to the persons themselves to come forward. He concluded by moving for an "account of all applications to be admitted to the Reading, Room of the British Museum, within the last five years, which had been postponed till the person applying could furnish the required reference."

Mr. Bankes

observed, that the hon. mover complained of the discretion vested in the officers of the House being too narrow; but surely it was fitting to see that the persons applying were of that description that ought to be admitted. He believed there was no instance of a proper person being refused admission; and therefore he hoped the hon. gentleman would withdraw his motion.

Sir C. Long

challenged the hon. gentleman, if he had any case of grievance, to state it to the House; but at present he could see neither the object of the motion, nor any necessity for it. He was not aware of any better rule that could be adopted.

Mr. Dickinson

bore testimony to the facility with which proper persons obtained admission.

Mr. Gurney

could not help adverting to the opinion which had gone abroad, that the libraries on the continent, particularly in France, were more easy of access than that of the British Museum. That this opinion was Unfounded would at once appear by adverting to the fact, that the library of the British Museum was open six hours a clay, with only a vacation of three weeks in the course of the whole year; whereas the libraries of Paris were open only four hours a day, with a vacation of six weeks.

Mr. Lennard

was not disposed to press the motion to a division. As the right hon. baronet had challenged him to produce a case of hardship, he would mention two. The first was the case of a gentleman engaged in the profession of the law, and who had been a contributor to the Museum. This gentleman, whose name was Jones, wrote to Mr. Planta requesting admission to the reading-room, and and was answered that a reference was required. The consequence was, that for these three months Mr. Jones had been unable to obtain admission. The other case was that of the son of an eminent professor at Geneva, who wished for admission to see the manuscript of Rousseau's works, but who received the same answer, and consequently had not been able to procure admission.

The motion was negatived.