PRM ms collections, Box 1, 107-8

Pitt Rivers Museum Annual Report 1890 I

[Draft] Letter from Balfour to Pitt-Rivers dated 4.3.91. I am presuming this is a draft as it is addressed to 'Dear General P.R.', given the recent tenor of correspondence between Pitt-Rivers and Balfour it seems unlikely that such a casual approach would have been used! In the days before electronic copies, carbon copies or earlier drafts were often kept by the sender as aide memoires. This is either a follow-up letter to the one shown here, or another draft reply (possibly never sent), or else the actual reply sent to Pitt-Rivers letter of 28 November 1890.

11 Norham Gardens 4.3.91

Dear General P.R.

On receiving your letter I went to the Vice Chancellor and he agreed that it would be best to arrange a day next term for your lecture, as the present term expires on Saturday week, and we are unwilling to press you unduly so as to have the lecture this term, if you prefer a longer time for the preparation of diagrams etc. I hope that the date fixed will be perfectly convenient to you. I have sent off the roll of diagrams of New Ireland paddles and hope they will reach you safely.

I am sorry that I must put off the publication of my essay on 'Decorative Art', as I had hoped to have got it out soon after this term, had your lecture been delivered this term, and a certain number of scientists are expecting it. I am afraid that it is of little use to reckon upon issuing it after your lecture next term as I have no doubt that Haddon's paper

Page 2

will appear by then, and I daresay the Americans will have something out as they seem to be in the field. Your work in the subject will of course be always referred to by any one who writes upon 'Art Evolution', and Haddon will no doubt give a list of your papers & some of the series at least; but I hoped that the first general account for the public might emanate from Oxford, in connection with your collection, embodying all your original series, and using as far as possible the material now in the collection; in order to emphasize the educational value of the collections as much as possible, & keep it before the public, and also to popularize the subject. To write an essay upon the 'Growth of Decorative Art' without embodying your series and remarks would be by no means fair to the public, or to yourself, as, apart from excluding some of the

Pitt Rivers Museum Annual Report 1890 2

Page 3

most striking examples which have become classical, it would practically mean suppressing the history of enquiry in this branch, and it would be no satisfaction to me to suppress in any way the credit due to you for your most valuable work. Although I have the material the material [sic] to hand & ready for writing up, it would be useless for me to write it in any final form until I have some definite idea of what you wish done with regard to your series. I have therefore practically given it up & put aside the work, as it is practically useless for me to continue though I much regret dropping an interesting subject.

I have been thinking of writing a small book on the Phylogeny of Musical Instruments, as I think this subject would prove interesting to the public, and Sir John Stainer and others tell me that such a book is much wanted. Would you kindly tell me if you have written papers about musical instruments. The series were so completely disarranged in the journey to Oxford that I have no means (except in cases like the bow - harp series) of knowing your views upon the subject which is to me very unfortunate. Also, do you wish the materials in your original collection used in illustration, or would you prefer that I should use that in other Museums and collections. I should naturally vastly prefer to use the specimens under my care, and no doubt this would be appreciated in Oxford; but at the same time I do not wish to do so if you prefer otherwise & will rest by your decision. I hope you will excuse my troubling you with so long a letter, I am particularly anxious to emphasize to the public to the best of my ability the great claims of your collection.

Hoping that I can be of service to you in connection with your lecture.

Believe me

Yours truly

Henry Balfour

Transcribed by AP, March 2011, as part of the Rethinking Pitt-Rivers project

prm logo