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An English Academy Of Literature
by [?]

The king at this time was busied by furthering a similar project, which was to found “King James’s College at Chelsea;” a project originating with Dean Sutcliff; and zealously approved by Prince Henry, to raise a nursery for young polemics in scholastical divinity, for the purpose of defending the Protestant cause from the attacks of catholics and sectaries; a college which was afterwards called by Laud “Controversy College.” In this society were appointed historians and antiquaries, for Camden and Haywood filled these offices.

The Society of Antiquaries, however, though suppressed, was perhaps never extinct; it survived in some shape under Charles the Second, for Ashmole in his Diary notices “the Antiquaries’ Feast,” as well as “the Astrologers’,” and another of “the Freemasons’.”[5] The present society was only incorporated in 1751. There are two sets of their Memoirs; for besides the modern Archaeologia, we have two volumes of “Curious Discourses,” written by the Fathers of the Antiquarian Society in the age of Elizabeth, collected from their dispersed manuscripts, which Camden preserved with a parental hand.

The philosophical spirit of the age, it might have been expected, would have reached our modern antiquaries; but neither profound views, nor eloquent disquisitions, have imparted that value to their confined researches and languid efforts, which the character of the times, and the excellence of our French rivals in their “Academie,” so peremptorily required. It is, however, hopeful to hear Mr. Hallam declare, “I think our last volumes improve a little, and but a little! A comparison with the Academy of Inscriptions in its better days must still inspire us with shame.”

Among the statutes of the Society of Antiquaries there is one which expels any member “who shall, by speaking, writing, or printing, publicly defame the society.” Some things may be too antique and obsolete even for the Society of Antiquaries! and such is this vile restriction! It compromises the freedom of the republic of letters.

[Footnote 1: Long after this article was composed, the Royal Society of Literature was projected. It was founded by King George IV., and is said to have originated in a conversation between Dr. Burgess, afterwards Bishop of Salisbury, and a member of the royal household, who reported its substance to the king. The bishop was again sent for, and the formation of the society commenced by the offer of premiums for an essay on Homer, the prize being one hundred guineas; a poem on Dartmoor, prize fifty guineas (awarded to Mrs. Hemans); and one of twenty-five guineas, for an essay on the Ancient and Modern Languages of Greece. In 1823 the king granted the society a charter, and placed the annual sum of eleven hundred guineas at its disposal, to be spent in endowing ten associates for life, who were to receive one hundred guineas each yearly (as a delicate mode of aiding needy literary men); the remaining one hundred guineas to be expended on two gold medals, to be also awarded to eminent men of letters. Coleridge, Dr. Jameson, Malthus, Roscoe, Todd, and Sharon Turner received annuities among other well-known literary characters; and Mitford, Southey, Scott, Crabbe, Hallam, and Washington Irving received medals. On the death of George IV., the grant was discontinued, and the society now exists by the subscriptions of its members. ]

[Footnote 2: See an article “On the ridiculous titles assumed by the Italian Academies,” in a future page of this volume. ]

[Footnote 3: In J.T. Smith’s “Historical and Literary Curiosities” is engraved a fac-simile of a series of designs for the arms of the Royal Society, drawn by Evelyn, but not used, because the king gave them the choice of using the Royal Arms in a canton. The first of Evelyn’s designs exhibits a ship in full sail, with the motto Et Augebitur Scientia. The other are as follows:–A hand issuing from the clouds holding a plumb-line–motto, Omnia probate; two telescopes saltier-wise, the earth and planets above–motto, Quantum nescimus; the sun in splendour–motto, Ad majorem lumen; a terrestrial globe, with the human eye above–motto, Rerum cognoscere causas. ]

[Footnote 4: Evelyn notes in his Diary, August 20, 1662–“The king gave us the armes of England, to be borne in a canton in our armes; and sent us a mace of silver-gilt, of the same fashion and bigness as those carried before his majestie, to be borne before our president on meeting-days.” This mace is still used. ]

[Footnote 5: It was revived in 1707, by Wanley, the librarian to the Earl of Oxford, who composed its rules; he was joined by Bagford, Elstob, Holmes (keeper of the Tower records), Maddox, Stukely, and Vertue the engraver. They met at the Devil Tavern, Fleet-street, and afterwards in rooms of their own in Chancery-lane. They ultimately removed to apartments granted them in Somerset House by George III., where they still remain. ]