HL Deb 10 August 1854 vol 135 cc1501-4

wished to put to the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government a question of which he had given him notice. He mentioned the subject he was about to bring under their Lordships' attention at the request of the executors of one of the greatest of our poets—Thomas Campbell. He (Lord Campbell) was present when the remains of that distinguished man were deposited in Westminster Abbey, and he saw on that occasion the Earl of Aberdeen, the late Sir Robert Peel, Lord John Russell, and many of the most illustrious characters in this country, assembled to do homage to the genius and virtue of the departed poet. It was a matter of satisfaction to all who felt an interest in the honour of the country, that the remains of Thomas Campbell were deposited in Westminster Abbey, and it was agreed that a subscription should be made with the view of erecting a monument to his memory in Poets' Corner, amid the memorials of men who had done so much honour to English literature, and a statue had been accordingly completed by an eminent sculptor. The subscribers included persons of all ranks, from the Queen to the humblest individuals in the kingdom. But, of course, before the statue could be erected, it was necessary to obtain the permission of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. The Dean and Chapter made no objection, and could make no objection, to any of the writings of the deceased. They knew him to have been a sincere Christian; they knew that he was not only the poet of liberty but of order, and that all his writings tended to promote the cause of morality and religion. Thomas Campbell was also the author of poems which not only celebrated the naval glories of England, but which would perpetuate those glories. Although, however, the Dean and Chapter offered no objection to the erection of a statue, they made a pecuniary demand. The executors of the deceased had paid a sum of 73l. 5s. 2d. for the grave, and they paid a further sum of 7l. 7s. for leave to put the name of the poet upon the stone that covered the tomb. But now the Dean and Chapter further demanded 210l.. for two square feet of ground to be occupied by the pedestal of the statue. The subscription that had been raised for providing the statue was exhausted, although very moderate compensation had been given to the distinguished artist by whom the statue was executed. There were, therefore, no means of paying the demand made by the Dean and Chapter. A representation had been made to them upon the subject, but they were relentless; they said they must have the 200 guineas, or the statue should never enter Westminster Abbey. The statue had consequently remained for five years in the studio of the artist, having been excluded from that national temple for which it was destined. He should have thought that the Dean and Chapter would have waived their claim in order to do honour to the memory of so distinguished a poet; hut although repeated representations had been made to them they still persisted in their demand. The Dean and Chapter received grants from the public funds for the repairs of the Abbey, and they had therefore no right to act as if the edifice were the mere private property of the corporation, instead of being national property. The Dean and Chapter could not say in one breath that the Abbey was the national Pantheon, while in another they maintained that it was their private property. He thought their Lordships would agree that this was a state of things which should not continue to exist. He was convinced that the noble Earl (the Earl of Aberdeen) took as lively an interest in everything that concerned the honour of the country as could be felt by any individual, and that be would be most anxious that this reproach should be wiped away. He (Lord Campbell) begged, there- fore, to ask the noble Earl whether he was prepared, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, to make a representation to the Dean and Chapter in order that the statue might be erected without payment of this exorbitant demand; and whether, if the Dean and Chapter persisted in that demand, the noble Earl would, in the next Session of Parliament, propose a grant of 200 guineas from the public money for the purpose of purchasing a site for the statue?


said, his noble and learned Friend had put to him a question which he confessed he was not quite prepared to answer. He sympathised entirely in the admiration expressed by the noble and learned Lord for the distinguished person to whom he had referred. The noble and learned Lord had reminded him that he had attended the remains of that distinguished person to the grave, and he had also contributed to the erection of a memorial to him. Now, although the demand of the Dean and Chapter for the erection of a statue might appear immoderate, he must inform his noble and learned Friend that such charges were, to a certain degree, indispensable, in order to enable the Dean and Chapter to maintain the fabric of the noble edifice of which they had charge. The Dean and Chapter possessed no estates from which they could provide for the repairs of the Abbey, and there were no funds available for that purpose, as was generally the case with respect to almost every cathedral church. The Dean and Chapter had no funds for effecting those repairs beyond their receipts for places of burial and fur the erection of monuments, and the special grants which they occasionally received from Parliament. He (the Earl of Aberdeen) was quite ready to admit that this was a state of things the continuance of which was not desirable, but he would submit to his noble and learned Friend, whether, instead of proposing a grant from the public money for purchasing a site, the simplest mode of meeting the difficulty would not be for the noble and learned Lord and himself (the Earl of Aberdeen), with other admirers of the distinguished poet, to subscribe to provide the amount necessary for securing the admission of the monument to Westminster Abbey? For his own part, he would be very glad to contribute to such a fund, and he was satisfied that the sum of 200 guineas would readily be provided. There was no doubt that Thomas Campbell was well worthy of a monument in Westminster Abbey; but, from their want of funds the Dean and Chapter had been obliged to allow the erection of numerous monuments in Westminster Abbey to persons who were not entitled to such a distinction. In doing so, they had disfigured, to a great extent, a building which was, in his humble opinion, by far the finest Gothic edifice in England. He regretted the manner in which the Abbey had been disfigured by the erection of monuments which could not be said to have the slightest claim to admission to such an edifice. He must say, however, that not a single farthing of the sum derived from this source found its way into the pockets of the Dean and Chapter, who had no personal interest whatever in the matter. The Dean and Chapter were bound to maintain the fabric of the Abbey, and this was the only mode by which they could obtain the funds necessary for that purpose. He knew, from his own experience, that the Dean and Chapter had acted with great liberality in cases similar to that to which his noble and learned Friend had called attention. Many years ago he had to make arrangements for the erection of a monument in Westminster Abbey to a distinguished individual, and on that occasion the Dean remitted the payment to which he and the Chapter would have been entitled. The amount demanded for the admission of monuments depended on the extent of the repairs which it might be necessary, from time to time, to make, and it varied according to the exigencies Of the Dean and Chapter. The sum demanded in this instance appeared to be a large one, but, no doubt, the circumstances of the Dean and Chapter rendered such a charge necessary. Although he considered Thomas Campbell worthy of all honour, he was not prepared to hold out hopes that a grant would be proposed from the public funds to purchase a site for the poet's statue in Westminster Abbey. At the same time, he would endeavour, by the best means in his power, to take such steps as appeared to him most likely to secure the admission of the statue into that edifice.


expressed himself satisfied with the statement of the noble Earl, but thought some means should be provided for keeping Westminster Abbey in repair, without making these heavy demands for the erection of monuments to distinguished persons.

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