Appendix 10 - Correspondence

Letter from Harlech to Forsdyke

5 Mansfield Street,

W.1.

1.12.38.

Dear Forsdyke,

Many thanks for the copy of the draft public announcement. I am a little doubtful about the wisdom of the use of the word "some" in the last line but one. The word "some" might be taken by the public to mean a large number. Sooner or later it will have to come out which are the individual pieces which have been damaged and I would greatly prefer more frankness and definition. Accordingly I would suggest that the word "three" should be substituted for the word "some".

Yours sincerely,

Harlech


 

Letter from Harlech to Forsdyke

5 Mansfield Street

W.1.

3.12.38.

Dear Forsdyke,

All right! But there will be headlines in the lay press and telephone calls to know the extent of the damage and certainly exaggeration.

Would it help to add "As soon as the occurrence of improper and unauthorized methods of cleaning was discovered by the director all further cleaning of the marbles was immediately stopped and fully investigated by a special committee of the trustees who have recommended certain disciplinary action which will be published in due course."

There will be a long and slow investigation by the expert world as you say, but what concerns me is an unduly alarmist reaction by the lay press, & questions in parliament which will drag out the horrid truth bit by bit and produce the kind of comment we may expect in Germany & Greece only anxious to twist England's tail. We ought to do what we can to minimize this sort of reaction if we can. Of course the sooner it is known that Pryce, Hinks & Holcombe especially the last are out of the Museum for good the better.

Yours sincerely,

Harlech


 

Letter from Sir Charles Peers, Chiselhampton House, Stadhampton, Oxford.

3rd December, 1938

Dear Forsdyke,

Parthenon Sculptures

The form of announcement as proposed to be appended to the report of the Board of Enquiry is as well worded as is possible in the circumstances, and I can't object to its being used.

But there is no doubt that the publication of this, or any like statement, will result in what I should like by every means to avoid, namely, a serious blow to the reputation of the B.M. It seems to me that what is principally entailed on the Trustees is to order the preparation of a careful report on each piece of sculpture which has suffered, so that any student studying these marbles in the future may be safeguarded against mistakes arising from the condition of the damaged carvings. This is our real duty to knowledge, but I do not think that a publication of the fact that damage has been done is of any importance in comparison.

Yours sincerely,

Charles Peers

Sir John Forsdyke, K.C.D.,

British Museum,

London,

W.C.1.


 

Letter from Harewood to Forsdyke

32 Green Street, W.1.

Dec. 7th. 1938

Dear Forsdyke,

I regret that I have to go to Yorkshire on Saturday 10th and may not be able to come to the British Museum even for the Standing Committee.

If the opinion of absentees is required on the case of Messrs. Pryce & Hinks, I incline to the view they should be "removed from office on the ground of their inability to discharge their duties" etc.

My reason for selecting this one of the 3 courses suggested by the Board is that it appears to be the only one under which they could get any pension? And I presume they have a long and mostly meritorious service behind them.

Possibly I am wrong in thinking their service to be long. In that case I should vote for "permission to resign"; and if it is not "meritorious" I should vote for dismissal.

Yours sincerely,

Harewood


 

Letter from J. Stanley Gardiner to Sir John (Forsdyke?)

Bredon House,

Selwyn Gardens,

Cambridge.

Dec. 7.38.

Dear Sir John,

I hate to be absent when serious matters come up for consideration but I have to leave for Ireland to-morrow on affairs concerned with its Nat. University. My apologies.

The one thing that seems to me important is that we should publish at once, so as to avoid the Press making a big show of the whole matter. I have been called upon occasionally to straighten out a couple of the less reputable papers re discoveries and new ideas in Science. I was rung up by one asking if I knew anything about the "serious damage in the Museum", the thought of this being done by the class of maniac who puts his umbrella through a picture. This, Reporter's Idea, let me out comfortably.

Yours,

J. Stanley Gardiner


 

Letter from Canterbury to Forsdyke

Lambeth Palace, S.E.1. 14th December 1938

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Forsdyke,

I think I ought to send you the enclosed letter from Sir William Bragg. Please return it with your comments.

I had the opportunity of a short talk with the Lord Chancellor this afternoon and he was of opinion that no such express publication of what has happened to the Elgin Marbles should be published. He thinks, and I am disposed to agreed with him, that it would be sufficient that you should be ready at any time when any expert calls attention to what has happened to give a careful and considered reply. Certainly the last people to whom I think any statement should be voluntarily sent would be the Greek Government!

Yours very sincerely,

Cosmo Cantuar


 

Letter presumably from Forsdyke to Canterbury (not clear who sender is no signature on copy)

15th December, 1938

His Grace

The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury,

Lambeth Palace,

S.E.1.

Dear Lord Archbishop,

I am sure that anyone who fully understands the facts and the position in regard to the Parthenon sculpture must agree with the decision which was reached by the Trustees.

In the first place we are not yet able to say what the effect of these improper processes has been, and an incomplete statement would serve no purpose. There is no question of repairs: these could not even be attempted. It will take us a long time to make an accurate record of the pieces that were improperly cleaned, and we regard the making of this record as our real duty. When it is made, the Trustees may be asked to consider its publication in an archaeological journal; but I do not agree with Sir William Bragg that we should find any kind of condonation among the experts, least of all from the Greeks. We can offer no excuse for what has happened. The stress of war alarms on this occasion, as I explained to the Standing Committee, was invented by Hinks for his defence; and Pryce's health will doubtless justify his retirement, but not his neglect of duty during the last two years.

I return Bragg's letter herewith.

Yours sincerely,


 

Letter from (Archbishop of Canterbury) to Forsdyke

Old Palace, Canterbury 16th December 1938

PRIVATE

Dear Forsdyke,

This is just to acknowledge with thanks your letter of December 15th. I am relieved that you do not think it would be well at present to encourage Sir William Bragg's proposal. I have written to him more or less on the lines of your letter to me.

You know how very real my sympathy with you is in this most unfortunate occurrence.

Yours very sincerely,

Cosmo Cantuar


 

LETTER FROM (Archbishop of Canterbury) to Forsdyke

Lambeth Palace, S.E.

CONFIDENTIAL. 9TH February 1939

My dear Forsdyke,

I have heard a rumour that a section of the Press - probably the Beaverbrook Press - has got wind of our recent trouble at the Museum and that if so it may be necessary to have some reasoned statement on behalf of the Trustees ready explaining shortly but adequately the grounds of their action. You may already have prepared such a statement. I am sure you will agree with me that it would be a mistake to dwell too fully in any public statement upon the extent of the mischief which was done even though you and I may feel that it was very serious. If you have prepared, or are ready to prepare, any such statement I suggest that it might be well for you to consult Lord Macmillan as to the form of it, whose judgment in these matters is always sound. I may have a word with you on the matter on Saturday morning.

Yours very sincerely,

Cosmo Cantuar


 

Letter from P. Jeannerat, Esq., Daily Mail, Editorial Department, Northcliffe House, London, E.C.4. to Sir John Forsdyke.

March 21st, 1939

Sir John Forsdyke, K.C.B.,

Director and Principal

Librarian of the British

Museum.

Dear Sir John Forsdyke,

May I respectfully ask you whether a statement could be made to the Daily Mail regarding the rumours connected with an alleged recent cleaning of the Elgin Marbles?

I should be glad to call at the Museum any day and hour you may care to choose. Perhaps you will feel that the matter is of public interest, and an early official reassurance would be most welcome.

Yours faithfully.

(Sgd. P. Jeannerat)


 

Letter to P. Jeannerat, Daily Mail from Sir John Forsdyke.

22nd March, 1939.

P. Jeannerat, Esq.,

Daily Mail,

Editorial Department,

Northcliffe House,

E.C.4.

Dear Sir,

I should be glad to give you the appointment for which you ask if I could give you any useful information, but as the Permanent Head of a Government Department I am not, of course, able to make statements for publication about the policy and conduct of my Department.

When the Trustees of the British Museum have such statements to make, they issue them through the Press Agencies, and you may be sure that no information on this subject will be available for any newspaper which is not also given to the Daily Mail.

But it seems to me that there is no more that can be said about these matters. As regards the sculpture itself, this is on public view, as it has always been, and any intelligent observer has been able to form his own opinion about its cleaning for the last six months and more.

The more or less recent retirements of two members of the staff have also been subjects of newspaper comment, and the reasons for their retirements have been published. It is clear that their personal affairs cannot be discussed beyond that point by anyone but themselves.

Finally, the notices in the Daily Telegraph are directed at me personally, and although I am quite unmoved by them, it would be improper for me, as a Civil Servant, to reply through any newspaper.

Yours faithfully.

(Sgd. E. J. Forsdyke)

Director and Principal Librarian


 

Letter from Christopher Hussey, Editor, Country Life to Sir John Forsdyke

Country Life, 2-10 Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, W.C.2.

March 30th, 1939

Dear Sir,

As you are no doubt aware, there are very disquieting rumours gaining circulation with regard to the effects of unauthorised cleaning on certain of the Elgin marbles. I believe that these are very much exaggerated, and am proposing to have an editorial note to that effect in next week's issue of "Country Life", but I am naturally anxious to co-operate so far as possible with the British Museum authorities in the matter, and am accordingly hoping that you will not be averse to my writing to you on the matter.

I gather that it can be truly said that so far as the public are concerned all the marbles that have been cleaned, whether by authorised or unauthorised methods, will appear the better for it, also that the pediment groups and the majority of the frieze sculptures and the metopes are unaffected. I understand, however, that in certain cases a tool and/or chemicals was employed without authority on the surfaces of some of the pieces.

I have no intention of attempting to exaggerate the incident, but I thought of concluding the paragraph with the hope that a statement will shortly be published, if only to put a check on idle gossip. I was wondering whether you could see your way to having a word on the telephone with me on the matter, if possible tomorrow morning, as the next issue of "County Life" will be going to press that day, though additional material can be checked up till mid-day on Monday.

Assuring you of our desire to assist the British Museum to the fullest extent, I am,

Yours faithfully.

Christopher Hussey

Editor


Sir John Forsdyke, K.C.B.,

British Museum,

W.C.1.

Letter from Henry A. Miers to J. Forsdyke.

18, Aberdare Gardens,

West Hampstead,

London, N.W.6. 12th May, 1939

The Director,

The British Museum,

Bloomsbury, W.C.1.

Dear Forsdyke,

I received to-day from Markham a cutting from the Daily Telegraph containing a letter from D. W. S. Hunt about the Elgin Marbles, and Markham wished to see me about it, but I shall be away to-day and unable to meet him. You have probably seen the letter which refers to a paragraph in "London Day by Day" on May 1st, which I have not seen and therefore do not know what exactly is the matter. However Hunt is a Fellow of Magdalen; I shall be at a College meeting next Wednesday and can probably arrange to meet him then and hear about his grievances.

I may add that I was rung up by the Sunday Dispatch at 2.5 on March 25th, enquiring whether the Trustees had that morning been considering the Elgin Marbles. I replied that the Trustees would not meet at Bloomsbury till May to consider British Museum matters. The Sunday Dispatch man, Knight, said he supposed that reports about the cleaning of the Marbles were exaggerated; he had not seen anything wrong with them. I laughed and said of course he had not, and added that I had not read recent rumours in the Press, that nothing was being done and that all was well.

Yours sincerely,

(Henry A. Miers)


 

Letter from E. F. Forsdyke to Sir Henry Alexander Miers.

12th May, 1939

Sir Henry Alexander Miers, D.C.L., D.Sc., LL.D., F.R.S.,

18 Aberdare Gardens,

West Hampstead,

N.W.6.

Dear Miers,

The activity of the `Daily Telegraph' in the matter of the Elgin Marbles is, I believe, a form of personal attack upon me, in consequence of a necessary difference of opinion which I had with a journalist whom I found established here when I succeeded Hill, and whose expulsion Hill approved. No other newspaper takes any notice of it. I think that Markham would do more harm than good by raising the question in the House of Commons, but he may be useful, if the question is put, in asking the proper supplementary questions. I will gladly see Markham.

The young man Hunt of Magdalen must have been put up by the newspaper people to write his letter. It is ignorant and foolish for a man in his position. A `lover of Greek art' would at once have come and seen for himself what the effect of the unauthorised cleaning has been, and a sensible person would know that to publish the details of official negligence at this moment would only discredit the nation abroad, and could do no good.

There was an excellent editorial note in `Country Life' of April 8th.

Yours sincerely,

(E. J. Forsdyke)


 

Letter from Forsdyke to Tribe

16th May, 1939

F. N. Tribe, Esq., C.B., C.B.E.,

Treasury Chambers,

Whitehall,

S.W.1.

Dear Tribe,

Here is the statement which I prepared some time ago about the Parthenon Sculpture. I did it very carefully with Lord Macmillan and had it approved by the Archbishop. You could let me know by telephone what you think about it.

Yours sincerely,

(E. J. Forsdyke)


 

Letter from S. F. Markham (The Museums Association) to A. Esdaile, British Museum.

The Museums Association

Chaucer House

Malet Place

London W.C.1.

16th May, 1939

Dear Esdaile,

Thank you for your letter of the 12th May. You have doubtless seen, since then, Robert Byron's letter in the Sunday Times, and I think that, under the circumstances, a written question in Parliament would be the best method of dealing with the problem. You will understand the difficulties of the position when I add that, during the last week, I have had over a dozen enquiries as to what has happened, and have had an article submitted to me for my prior observations by one of the leading reviews.

I have been able to keep this latter out of print. Perhaps, therefore, you will appreciate the reason why I am putting the question. I can assure you that it is with no desire to embarrass the British Museum Authorities, but rather the reverse.

Yours sincerely,

(S. F. Markham, sigd.)


 

Letter from Esdaile to Markham.


17 May, 1939

S. F. Markham, Esq.,

The Museums Association,

Chaucer House,

Malet Place,

W.C.1.

Dear Markham,

Thank you for your letter of the 16th. We understand the position in which you have been placed and that your attitude is as, of course, we should have expected, entirely friendly.

We have not, as some seem to think, been hiding from publicity and the question and answer will do good at home at least. Abroad I am afraid that with Byron's help the enemies of this country may get a handle, but they have so many already.

Yours sincerely,

(Sgd). J. H. Witney for A. Esdaile

Secretary


 

Letter from F. N. Tribe to Sir John Forsdyke, .

Treasury Chambers, Whitehall, S.W.1.

17th May, 1939

Dear Forsdyke,

As I told you, Mr. Markham, M.P. has the following unstarred Question on the Order Paper for answer tomorrow:-

"To ask the Secretary to the Treasury, whether the Elgin marbles have now been safely transferred to their new gallery at the British Museum; and whether any have suffered by removal or any cleaning process."

Would you see any objection to the following reply?

"The marbles have not yet been transferred to the new gallery. So far as the latter part of the Question is concerned, I am informed by the Trustees of the British Museum that there has been some unauthorised cleaning of some of the marbles but it is not yet possible to determine precisely what the effect has been. I am assured, however, that the effects are imperceptible to anyone but an expert, and I think it follows that the intrinsic beauty of the marbles has not been impaired."

So far as Mr. Mander's Question for the 23rd May is concerned, we might reply simply by reference to the above answer with a slight amplification on facts unless events in the meanwhile have developed in such a way that a further reply is then desirable.

Could you telephone me tomorrow morning and let me know if you think the above reply is suitable, as it might be desirable to issue the reply tomorrow?

Yours sincerely,

(F. N. Tribe)


 

Letter from Henry Martin, F.S.A., Editor-in-Chief, Press Association to The Secretary, British Museum.

The Press Association,

P.O.Box no. 67,

23 St. Bride Street,

London, E.C.4. May 18, 1939

HM/ME

Dear Sir,

To-day's "Times" has a statement issued apparently by the Trustees of the British Museum regarding the recent cleaning of the Elgin Marbles.

I shall be grateful if you will inform me why a similar statement was not issued to the Press Association for distribution to the London and provincial Press. The subject is one of national interest, and already I am having inquiries why "The Times" should have been exclusively favoured.

Yours faithfully.

(Henry Martin)

Editor-in-Chief

The Secretary,

British Museum,

London, W.C.


 

Letter from Esdaile to Henry Martin

22 May, 1939

Henry Martin, Esq., F.S.A.,

The Press Association,

23, St. Bride Street,

E.C.4.

Dear Sir,

With reference to your letter of the 18th, I can only reply that the statement issued to The Times and not to The Press Association was issued by the Trustees.

I am unable to state what the Trustees' reasons for their policy were. Your letter will be laid before the Board in due course.

I am, dear Sir,

Yours faithfully.

(Sd.) A. Esdaile

Secretary


 

Letter from Forsdyke to Tribe

22nd May, 1939

F. N. Tribe, Esq., C.B., C.B.E.,

Treasury Chambers,

Whitehall,

S.W.1.

Dear Tribe,

I send herewith the first page of the early edition of the Daily Telegraph containing the irresponsible article about which I told you. I have underlined the false statements in red ink.

It is quite evident that this art critic (presumably an "expert") has no idea of what is going on in regard to the Parthenon sculpture. His "now open to the public again" and "not yet replaced" means that he does not understand that the old Room has never been closed and that the Metopes and other pieces which are not on view in it, have been removed to their permanent places in the new Room. The examples that he specifies of pieces that have been touched, the Cavalry of the North Frieze, are actually among those that we know were not touched and the figures of Cecrops and his daughter are not originals at all, but plaster casts, to which nothing could be done.

This effort entirely bears out what the Trustees said in their statement except that they might have gone farther and said that the effects of cleaning are imperceptible even to an expert of the newspaper kind. It is a pity that there is no means of dealing with this kind of false statement as libel.

Yours sincerely,

E. J. Forsdyke