vol II date / index
Sts. Protus and Hyacinthus, A. D. 257. St. Paphnutius, A. D. 335. St. Patiens, Abp. of Lyons, A. D. 480.
On the 11th of September, 1802, the following cause was decided by a jury in the sheriff's court.
Hurst v. Halford
The plaintiff was a nicknackitarian, that is, a dealer in curiosities, such as Egyptian mummies, Indian implements of war, arrows dipped in the poison of the upas-tree, bows, antique shields helmets, &c. He was described as possessing the skin of the cameleopard exhibited in the Roman amphitheatre, the head of the spear used by king Arthur, and the breech of the first cannon used at the siege of Constantinople; and, in short, of almost every rarity that the most ardent virtuoso would wish to possess.
The defendant was the executor of a widow lady of the name of Morgan, who, in the enjoyment of a considerable fortune, indulged her fancy, and amused herself in collecting objects of natural and artificial curiosity.
It was stated that this lady had been long in the habit of purchasing a variety of rare articles of the plaintiff: she had bought of him models of the temple of Jerusalem and the Alexandrian library, a specimen of the type invented by Memnon, the Egyptian, and a genuine manuscript of the first play acted by Thespis and his company in a waggon; for all these she had in her lifetime paid most liberally. It appeared also she had erected a mausoleum, in which her deceased husband was laid, and she projected the depositing her own remains, when death should overtake her, by the side of him. The plaintiff was employed in fitting it up, and ornamenting it with a tessellated pavement; this was also paid for, and constituted no part of the present demand. This action was brought against the defendant to recover the sum of 40l. for stuffing and embalming a bird of paradise, a fly-bird, and an ourang-outang, and ichneumon, and a cassowary. The defendant did not deny that the plaintiff had a claim on the estate of the deceased, but he had let judgment go by default, and attempted merely to cut down the amount of the demand. The plaintiff's foreman, or assistant, proved that the work had been done by the direction of Mrs. Morgan, and that the charge was extremely reasonable. On the contrary, the defendant's solicitor contended that the charge was most extravagant; he stated, that the museum of the deceased virtuoso had been sold by public auction, and including the models of the temple of Jerusalem and the Alexandrian library, the antique type, Thespian manuscript, spearhead, and every thing else she had been all her life collecting, it had not netted more that 110l. As to the stuffed monkies and birds, which constituted the foundation of the plaintiff's claim, they scarce had defrayed the expense of carrying them away; they were absolute rubbish. The plaintiff's attorney replied that his client's labour was not to be appreciated by what the objects of it produced at a common sale, attended, perhaps, by brokers, who were as ignorant as the stuffed animals they were purchasing.
The under-sheriff observed, that in matters of taste the intrinsic value of an article was not the proper medium of ascertaining the compensation due to the labour which produced it; a virtuoso frequently expended a large sum of money for what another man would kick out of his house as lumber. If Mrs. Morgan, who it was proved was a lady of fortune, wished to amuse the gloomy hours of her widowhood by stuffing apes and birds, her executor was at least bound to pay the expense she had incurred, in indulging her whimsical fancy. He saw no reason why a single shilling of the plaintiff's demand should be subtracted; and the jury viewed the curiosities in the same light, and gave a verdict for the plaintiff, damages 40l.
Variegated Meadow Saffron. Colchium variegatum.
Dedicated to St. Hyacinthus.