HC Deb 30 June 1843 vol 70 cc481-3
Mr. H. Hinde

rose to inquire of the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether any settlement had been made of the claims of the late Mr. Petrie, for his services in editing the collection of British historians, undertaken in pursuance of an address of this House; also to inquire whether the "large collection of materials" for that work, which was stated, in a return made to the House last year, to be still in the possession of Mr. Petrie's executors, had been transferred to the custody of the Master of the Rolls; and if not, why it had not been so transferred. Although Mr. Petrie did not in his life time receive any remuneration, yet two assistants employed under him bad been most liberally paid—one having been paid 4,000l., and the other 2,000l.;—1,000l. had also been paid for the transcriptions.

Sir J. Graham

would feel sorry to speak with the slightest disrespect of the late Mr. Petrie, whose acquirements and competency to perform the work undertaken by him were undoubted. At the same time, the hon. Member must be aware of the fact that very great delay took place in the completion of the work which Mr. Petrie undertook. That gentleman began his task in the year 1822, and be had made so little progress in it in 1836, that the Lords of the Treasury felt constrained to write to him, and to intimate to him that he must cease to consider himself as employed by the Government. However, a very large mass of very valuable and important materials had been collected by him; a portion of which was placed at the disposal of the public—the remainder, until his death, being in his own possession — and since then in the possession of his executors. With respect to that portion placed at the disposal of the public, it had been handed over, by the advice of the Master of the Rolls, to the Historical Society, who were about to edit a work exactly according to the plan of Mr. Petrie. With respect to the remaining portion of materials collected by Mr. Petrie still in the hands of his executors, he (Sir J. Graham) agreed with his hon. Friend that, as Mr. Petrie did not in his life-time receive any remuneration, that gentleman's executors were entitled to some compensation. Whenever any claim should be preferred by the executors, an investigation should take place to ascertain what amount of compensation was really due; and he had no doubt that the executors would be dealt with in the most fair and liberal terms.

Mr. Williams Wynn

was the only remaining Member of the House, be believed, who was on the original commission for promoting these publications. The House would, perhaps, permit him to state generally that the labours of Mr. Petrie were for a considerable time very great indeed. Unfortunately, Mr. Petrie was a constant martyr to the gout, and for the last ten or twelve years of his life it was impossible for him to prosecute his labours. Still his natural partiality for an undertaking which he had himself suggested, prevented him from giving up the execution of it to other hands. With respect to remuneration, he could state, that it was Mr. Petrie's own express wish that no remuneration should be made to him until the commissioners, the House, and the public, were able to judge of the manner in which the work he had undertaken was executed. About ten or eleven years ago, the first volume was completed, all but the index; and he hoped that measures would be taken for completing some of the other volumes which were in a state of forwardness, and a considerable portion of which had been printed, but unless the whole were completed, that which had been done would not only be useless, but, instead of reflecting credit upon the country, would reflect great discredit, particularly at a time when the other nations of Europe were imitating the example of such publications.

Subject at an end.