PRM ms collections PRM papers Box 1 84-85

and PRM ms collections PRM papers Box 1 86-87

Unsent reply from Henry Balfour to Pitt-Rivers, to the letter dated 28 November 1890 to be seen here. The detailed catalogue of this box of manuscripts suggests that this draft reply was sent by Balfour to the Vice-Chancellor at Hertford College 'for comment' as requested in the Vice-Chancellor's letter to Balfour dated 2 December 1890 [Box 1, 93]. A further letter from the V-C on the same day [Box 1, 94] suggests that the V-C felt the Balfour draft to be extremely unwise, although he acknowledges that Pitt-Rivers' original letter was brusque, he feels that Balfour's draft reply will not 'mend matters'. He suggests that Balfour comes to have 'a chat' before he sends any reply. There therefore must be a chance that the actual reply sent was in fact drafted by another, more remote and diplomatic, person.

PRM ms collections PRM papers Box 1 84-85

[Insert in pencil] Letter not sent [end insert]

Anatomical Department, Museum, Oxford. | 2nd Dec. 1890

Dear Sir

Your letter of the 28th inst has troubled me not a little, and I would ask you to be kind enough to read this answer to it, as I feel very hurt to find that you so greatly depreciate the work which I have done in connection with your collection. First allow me to correct a slight error; I have been five, and not six, years in charge of the collection; having commenced the work towards the end of 1885, never till then having seen the collection or studied Ethnography. The building was even then not finished and the systematic work of arranging etc did not commence till some time after the year (1886) had turned. The collection, when it came into my hands, was in very great confusion, [illegible writing over] was distributed in different parts of Oxford, many of the series were completely disarranged & the component elements scattered. In undertaking the work of rearranging and adapting the collection to its new home, I did not dream that it would be intended that the collection, as it existed at S. Kensington, complete though many of the series were, was to be considered complete and its arrangement final. I gathered from reading your papers,

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as I have since further been led to suppose by your own statements, that the collection was to be progressive even as it illustrates progress; I had all endeavours were to be made to render it as complete as possible, and to increase its educational value, that it should always maintain itself among museums as one of paramount importance.

The field of work seemed to offer great attractions, and I entered it thinking that, besides the great benefits that I must derive from a careful and detailed study of your collection (both from an Ethnographic and a Curator's point of view), I should find an opening for research, for possibly advancing a little a most important branch of science, increasing the educational value of this department, for endeavouring to do the collection the justice it so richly deserves.

Had I supposed that the work was to be of a purely mechanical nature, to be finished and done with, I should never have undertaken it, but should have continued to pursue the study of animal morphology in which I was then engaged, & which offers a wide scope.

Fortunately my circumstances render me independent of the small salary which I have drawn from the University, so that pecuniary considerations have influenced me but slightly.

You say that you 'consider 6 years an unreasonable time

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for it to have been kept in the background in Oxford? I am afraid that I do not fully understand the meaning of this, as I fail to see how I has been kept in the background. The Court of the building was very soon thrown open to the public, and the upper gallery has been open nearly two years. I have already explained to your that the lower gallery (the only remaining closed portion) can be opened as soon as a building has been provided for the work of the department. I have always, as has Dr. Tylor, endeavoured to emphasize the points of the collection & its educational value, by demonstrations to visitors, & have done my best to keep it as much in the foreground as possible, and I imagined with some success, as the interest shewn by people has been great. I should have thought that by writing I could have done something more towards increasing the knowledge of the subject & helping to advance the particular branch of Anthropology with which your name will always be associated. By writing from time to time the collection, and the fact of its progressing & not remaining at a standstill, is kept constantly before the scientific public, and the interest is kept up amongst people abroad (of the importance of this I have had many proofs). But now you wish nothing written about which touches upon your series, and this important method of keeping the collection in the foreground is cut off.

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As regards my paper upon the "Composite Bow". the raison d'être of that paper was, as was clearly shewn, to describe the "complex structure of the higher types" by means of dissection, a question not dwelt upon in your catalogue. It was not intended as a paper upon your series, though in order to shew the importance of the various structures, I found it necessary to deal with the subject from a wider standpoint, and recover the ground already so admirabley described by you. The fact of your work being mentioned in a footnote was due to my having so inscribed it when my paper was a very short one dealing only with the anatomy of a few forms, before I developed it to cover a wide field; and I had fully intended, had I read the paper myself, to make full mention of your work. As it was, my health failed me, and I had to hurry off at a few hours notice to avail myself of an invitation to join the Channel Squadron for a month's cruise. So it happened that the paper was hurriedly sent in without being revised, a misfortune which I have only too great cause to deplore. I added a very full acknowledgement for publication, & thought that you would [insert] then [end insert], as you said, allow the matter to drop, but I am doomed to disappointment I give you the above facts concerning the paper, if you have followed me thus far.

I have devoted practically the whole of my time (without help from the Curator since Prof. Moseley's illness) [here the draft concludes on these pages]

PRM ms collections PRM papers Box 1 86-87

to your collection - either to the mechanical management of the department or to such a study of Anthropology as I have thought would benefit it and advance the principles illustrated by it, and have constantly studied how I could advance this particular branch of Anthropology. I do the work because I take great interest in it & it is a pleasure to me to do it, not because it is a necessity. I should have thought that these facts would have rendered me proof against the expressions of want & of confidence & dissatisfaction with which you favour me. So long as I hold a post connected with your collection, it will, as it always has, receive my first thoughts, but if my position as curator is to hamper rather than to give me scope for useful work, & on that account I am not to publish such results as I may from time to time arrive at, in order to advance the science where I can - if this is to be so my only course is to disolve [sic] my connection entirely with the collection, and to

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assume an entirely independent position, a course which I should be extremely sorry to adopt as my interests are so completely centred in the collection.

It was purely for your own sake that I suggested the postponement of your lecture until the entire building could be opened. I thought that you would naturally prefer to see the public admitted everywhere; personally I feel that I should be only too pleased personally if the lecture could be given at once, as I regard it as a most important event. I understand from Dr. Tylor that you contemplate giving it next term, & of that I can only say I am very glad.

I am sorry to trouble you with so extremely long a letter, but I have no opportunities of seeing you. It is because I feel keenly the manner in which you regard myself and my efforts to advance the interests of your collection, that I have gone into such detail. Nothing could send more to dishearten me from the work than the strained relations which seem to exist between us, & I greatly deplore that the collection & the science should suffer from this cause. Apologizing for the great length of this letter

Believe me
Yours faithfully
Henry Balfour

General A. Pitt Rivers D.C.L | Rushmore, nr Salisbury.


There is a letter in Box 1, 90 from Balfour to the Vice-Chancellor dated 1.12.91 (but which the curator of the ms collections believes to be an erroneous date, with the date 1.12.1890 being suggested as an alternative) where Balfour asks for the right to resign at any time, citing as some of the reasons, '... The management of the department is so anomalous, & the provision for the permanent maintenance of the collection nil, & the attitude assumed by Gen. Pitt-Rivers so strange ...'. A further letter from Balfour a day later (again dated erroneously 1891) [Box 1, 92] says, '... on Saturday I received a letter from Gen. P.R. [presumably the letter of 28 November] which shewed me that it would be extremly unwise for me to bind myself [to the job at the Pitt Rivers Museum] for any time. The attitude assumed by him has astonished me greatly, & I can only see that harm to the interests of the colln. can come of it if he maintains it. The fact that his views are based on entirely erroneous notions does not diminish the present difficulty. I hope that General P.R. will soon change his views & that there will be no need for me to avail myself of my power to resign.'

Transcribed by AP, March 2011, for the Rethinking Pitt-Rivers project.

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