The British Museum
London, June 17th, 1782.
The British Museum.
I have had the happiness to become acquainted with the Rev. Mr. Woide; who, though well known all over Europe to be one of the most learned men of the age, is yet, if possible, less estimable for his learning than he is for his unaffected goodness of heart. He holds a respectable office in the museum, and was obliging enough to procure me permission to see it, luckily the day before it was shut up.
In general you must give in your name a fortnight before you can he admitted. But after all, I am sorry to say, it was the rooms, the glass cases, the shelves, or the repository for the books in the British Museum which I saw, and not the museum itself, we were hurried on so rapidly through the apartments.
The company, who saw it when and as I did, was various, and some of all sorts; some, I believe, of the very lowest classes of the people, of both sexes; for, as it is the property of the nation, every one has the same right (I use the term of the country) to see it that another has. I had Mr. Wendeborn's book in my pocket, and it, at least, enabled me to take a somewhat more particular notice of some of the principal things; such as the Egyptian mummy, a head of Homer, &c.
The rest of the company, observing that I had some assistance which they had not, soon gathered round me; I pointed out to them as we went along, from Mr. Wendeborn's German book, what there was most worth seeing here. The gentleman who conducted us took little pains to conceal the contempt which he felt for my communications when he found out that it was only a German description of the British Museum I had got.
The rapidly passing through this vast suite of rooms, in a space of time little, if at all, exceeding an hour, with leisure just to cast one poor longing look of astonishment on all these stupendous treasures of natural curiosities, antiquities, and literature, in the contemplation of which you could with pleasure spend years, and a whole life might be employed in the study of them--quite confuses, stuns, and overpowers one.
In some branches this collection is said to be far surpassed by some others; but taken altogether, and for size, it certainly is equalled by none. The few foreign divines who travel through England generally desire to have the Alexandrian manuscript shewn them, in order to be convinced with their own eyes whether the passage, "These are the three that bear record, &c.," is to be found there or not [* see editorial note below].
The Rev. Mr. Woide lives at a place called Lisson Street, not far from Paddington; a very village-looking little town, at the west end of London. It is quite a rural and pleasant situation; for here I either do, or fancy I do, already breathe a purer and freer air than in the midst of the town. Of his great abilities, and particularly in oriental literature, I need not inform you; but it will give you pleasure to hear that he is actually meditating a fac-simile edition of the Alexandrian MS. I have already mentioned the infinite obligations I lie under to this excellent man for his extraordinary courtesy and kindness.
The passage in the Alexandrian manuscript to which Moritz refers is from the Bible - 1 John 5:7.
For there are three that bear record in heaven: the Father, the Word [Jesus], and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.
The words in italics do not appear in the early manuscripts, occasioning debate about the nature of the Trinity, a debate in which Pastor Moritz clearly had an interest.