Page images
[ocr errors]

Mr. GREENOUGH's address was followed by the singing to music composed for the occasion by JULIUS EICHBERG, of the following


Bringing what praise we can

Of all we hope for here,
Man's largest help to man,

Youth's courage, trust, and cheer,
Yet swept on the choral swell,

Sprung from the grateful heart,
Song can but feebly tell

What help, O God, thou art!

Humbly before the scope

Of mind's supremest power,
We plant this seed in hope,

Trusting to pluck the flower,
Yet swept on the choral swell,

Sprung from the grateful heart,
Song can but feebly tell

What sower, God, thou art !

Labor we not in vain,

Dowering what's here enshrined,
If the people's heart and brain,

Responsive seek and find, -
But yet in the choral swell,

Sprung from the grateful heart,
Song can but feebly tell

What giver, God, thou art!

The Hon. BENJ. DEAN, was then introduced by the Mayor, and spoke as follows:

MR. MAYOR, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN OF SOuth BOSTON, When the President of the Board of Trustees — whose able address you have just listened to with so much interest asked me to say something on this important event in the history of our section of the city, I, of course, cast about me to see what I should say.

In doing so, I thought of the time when I first learned how the Public Library, of which this is a Branch, came to take a sudden start, and

[ocr errors]

became, from a small affair, almost by magic, one of the foremost in the country. It is true that I knew, as you knew at the time, that our Public Library was growing rapidly. We all knew when the elegant building in Boylston Street was erected. But although I knew all this as you did, and felt as much interest in it is most of you, I did not know until quite recently, — or, if I did, it made no impression on my mind,

what an interesting and romantic story was connected with it. I know it will interest you as it did me, and it will teach us all the most fitting lesson for this occasion.

There was a poor Boston boy,-I call him a Boston boy, because, though born close by in the town of Weymouth, he came here early, and formed here those habits and tastes in his growth to manhood, to which he owed his wonderful prosperity. Well, this poor boy used to go evenings to a bookstore, and was permitted to read the books there, and he afterwards became the head of the great English house of Barring & Brothers, ilmassing an enormous fortune, and exerting a great · indluence even in national affairs. Now when he had risen to this great eminence he didn't forget, nor despise, the humble means by which he had prepared himself for so successful a career. And when he learned that the library was progressing but slowly, in order to give other poor boys the same kind of privileges he had enjoyed, he gave to it, first, the princely sum of $50,000 in money, and then another $50,000 in books. But his own simple way of telling his story is best, and I will read it in one of his letters to Mr. Thomas W. Ward.

“MY DEAR WARD:- I enclose a letter addrssed to the Mayor, which please to peruse, and then go to Mr. Everett and Mr. Ticknor, and explain to them my ideas, which are, that my own experience as a poor boy convinced me of the great advantage of such a library. Having no money to spend and no place to go to, not being able to pay for a fire or light in my own rooni, I could not pay for books, and the best way I could pass my evenings was to sit in Hastings, Etheridge, & Bliss's bookstore, and read what they kindly permitted me to; and I am confident that had there been good, warm, and well-lighted rooms to which we could have resorted, with proper books, nearly all the youth of my acquaintance would have spent their evenings there, to the improvement of their minds and morals.

“Now it strikes me, that it will not do to have the rooms in the proposed library much inferior to the rooms occupied for the same object by the upper class. Let the virtuous and industrious of the middle and mechanic class feel that there is not so much difference between them. Few but worthy young men will frequent the Library at first; they may draw other's from vice to tread in the same paths; and with large, well-lighted

rooms, well-warmed in winter, I feel sure the moral effect will keep pace with mental improvement, and it will be carrying out the school system of Boston, as it ought to be carried out.

My friends may think differently, or that my proposal is improper, or in the wrong form ; but if you all agree that it is right and proper, the Trustees may go to work and provide such books as they find cheapest in the United States, drawing on me for the cost, sending me a list of such as can best be procured here or in France, and I will have them purchased without delay. If this conclusion is come to, then my letter to the Mayor may be delivered, if it is thought a proper one. I rely on you, Mr. Everett and Mr. Ticknor, to put the matter right, and remain,

6. Ever truly yours,


He says,

This letter requires no comment. I am sure the poor boys of South Boston who shall avail themselves of these wonderful opportunities brought to their own houses, and who will be sure to prosper if they do so, will remember, with gratitude, the name of Joshua Bates. But in addition to the inspiration of the story, I want to call your attention to this language in the letter : “It will be carrying out the school system of Boston as it ought to be carried out."

I will read extracts from a few more of Mr. Bates' letters, they are so interesting, and I want you to note, not only his lofty philanthropy, but also how he reiterates the idea that a library is essential to, and a proper part of, our common-school system.

“ The building should contain lofty apartments to serve for placing the books, and also for reading-tables, as the holding of books in the hand damages them very soon. The architecture should be such that the student, on entering it, will be impressed and elevated, and feel ir pride that such a place is free to him. There should be niches and places for a few marble statues. By these means the reading-rooms will be made more attractive, and the rising generation will be able to contemplate familiarly the best works of the celebrated masters. Again : As set forth in your report, it is chiefly to enable the young men, who have passed the schools in Boston or elsewhere, to complete their education. For that reason, I suggested that the rooms should be such as would be resorted to with pride and pleasure, warm and well lighted in winter, -- my own experience convincing me that rooms so organized will be filled.” Again: “Only see that the building is such that, when filled with books, every Bostonian will feel proud of; besides, to make it successful, it must be worth seeing." He further says: “ Mr. Twistleton has lately published an admirable pamphlet on public schools, which I am distributing where I think it can have any effect,

[ocr errors]

and I have no doubt in time, that the religious question must be thrown aside, and the Massachusetts system adopted; but free libraries will be wanted to complete the system.” In another letter he says: “I have, on former occasions, taken the liberty to express the deep interest which I feel in the establishment of this institution, as the completion of that system of education at the free public schools by which Boston is so honorably distinguished."

I have quoted so largely from these letters, not only because they were written by one who was entitled to speak to us with some authority, but because they are the views of a man who, from his great experience and habit of dealing with large affairs, took a broad view of things; and you see he considered a public library as a part of our common-school system. Now you noticed that the President of the Board of Trustees of the Public Library told us, that in these popular branches we could only have books suitable for ordinary circulation; that the city could not undertake to go farther, and that, if we desired scientific works and expensive books of reference, we must ourselves supply them.

Many of you know that there is a fund left by Mr. Hawes, a former resident of South Boston, for the benefit of public schools in this part of the city.

The trustees of that fund are among our most respected citizens. They have full discretion over the fund, limited only by the general purpose for which it was given; and I know from recent conversation with some of them that they are earnestly desirous of using it in such way as will be most for our benefit.

If they feel justified in taking the same broad and comprehensive views which have been expressed in the letters which I have read, they could supply those scientific and other works which Mr. Greenough informs us we cannot expect to obtain from the Board of Trustees.

And thus they can do for us what is to be done for the Roxbury Branch, by a fund which is fortunately to become available.

If they do not feel authorized thus to use the Hawes Fund, they can take another course, which they have already in contemplation, of establishing an Art or Industrial School; and I feel sure those publicspirited gentlemen will excuse the liberty I have taken on this auspicious occasion of alluding to the flattering prospect before us.

In establishing such school, they can, in connection with this Branch Library and in the same building, have a collection of statuary and drawings and models which will educate the taste and habits of our people as well as give the most useful technical instruction.

Let us suppose this system carried out, and what facilities the young men of South Boston will have! Let the two institutions go on side by side, and we shall have in one building, in contiguous rooms, library, reading-rooms, statuary, paintings, models, and all the apparatus required for education in the industrial arts. And, Mr. Mayor, and Mr. President, we have got to do this or something like it all over the Commonwealth. All over the world technical education is receiving a new impetus, and if we intend that Massachusetts shall maintain her stand, or rather shall take the stand she should in this great contest, she must be awake and at work.

One more thought, and I have done. I read the other day the following in one of our newspapers: —


“There is something almost touching in the news which has just l'eached me of the determination expressed by Sir Richard Wallace (so well known for his princely charities in Paris both during and since the siege) to devote the collection of paintings left him by the late Lord Seymour to the improvement and cultivation of the lower classes in London. A gallery is to be built at Bethnal Green, which, in spite of its rural name, is perhaps the most squalid and miserable quarter in all London, one that has been pronounced by clergymen and district visitors as so completely hopeless that although it is inundated with religious tracts, overcome by open-air preachers, and suffering a permanent threat of the wrath to come, not a step towards purification has been accomplished as yet. * Let us try a little amusement,' says Sir Richard Wallace, ' with the refinement of art, and see what that will do.' The collection which is to be sent over is one which has lain for years concealed from the public, useless and unemployed, nailed up in packing-cases or leaning against the wall in the Marquis of Hertford's house in Paris. Some of the greatest chef-d'ouvres of modern art have been thus hidden from fame, whilst the artist himself, as in the case of the famous Parisian sculptor, Clesinger, indignant at the sacrifice of his reputation, has been known to offer double the purchase money in order to have his work restored to him, so that his success might be acknowledged by the world. Every true philanthropist is on the tiptoe of anxiety lest Sir Richard should be diverted from his good intent, and consent to give to the National Gallery and other institutions at the West End, already rich to repletion, this collection of great works. Will he suffer himself to be cajoled and persuaded into the belief that they are beyond the comprehension of the lower orders, or will he boldly declare his opinion, as he did once before, that there may be as much real appreciation of art undeveloped by reason of ignorance, as exhibited to the world through education and training?

There is another man who has discerned what Joshua Bates so well

« PreviousContinue »