Guernsey Guille-Allès library and museum.

Encyclopeadic catalogue of the lending department online

. (page 2 of 206)
Online LibraryGuernsey Guille-Allès library and museumEncyclopeadic catalogue of the lending department → online text (page 2 of 206)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

treasures of the library alone. He was further enabled during the
winter months to attend courses of lectures delivered under the aus-
pices of the Institution, and of those of the Medical College of the
New York University, by some of the most distinguished and learned
professors and scientists of the day, both American and foreign, such
as Agassiz, Torrey, Draper, and others. He had, besides, the pleasure
of listening to several discourses by James Silk Buckingham, on that
gentleman's travels in the Holy Land, and these appear to have inter-
ested him greatly in the sites and scenes of the Saviour's earthly life.

Just at this time, too, the era of cheap and wholesome popular
literature was dawning, and there were being ushered in along with it
those manifold and precious blessings that have ever since followed in
its train. It may be readily imagined that so earnest a student was
not backward in hailing the advent of this great literary revival, and m

xvi. The Story in Brief

availing himself of the facilities it afforded of assorting and adding
to his favourite stock. The first appearances of Chambers' s Journal,
of the Penny Magazine and of the Saturday Magazine, date in each
case from the year 1832, and it is a very difficult thing for the young
people of the present day to realise the beneficent and fundamental
change which these and other similar excellent periodicals then
wrought in the popular mind, by superseding with something worthier
and better, the wretched and miserable old chap-books that had pre-
viously constituted so large a proportion of the everyday reading of
the business and artisan populations, both of England and of the
United States. Chambers^ Journal, which was the earliest of these
in the field the first number being published on Saturday, February
4th, 1832 was, and still is, a special favourite with Mr. Guille. In-
deed, he can say respecting it, what probably very few other people
can, that he possesses a complete set from its commencement until
now (1891), personally subscribed for in monthly parts as it ap-
peared, and that during this long period of fifty-nine years he has
never failed to read one or more of the articles which every such
successive part contains.

As regarded his studies in physical science, Mr. Guille was un-
willing to rest satisfied with mere theoretical knowledge. He deter-
mined as far as possible to submit all the statements he met with to
the practical test of actual experiment. With this aim and by the
help of his friend, Mr. Alles who manifested much ingenuity of
contrivance he constructed a very useful set of apparatus for his
chemical laboratory, together with an electrical machine, a galvanic
battery, a microscope, a telescope for astronomical observations, &c.,
&c. The course of experimental research through which he plodded at
this period presents many very interesting features, but the exigences of
space unfortunately preclude their narration at present. It is to be
hoped, however, that an opportunity may be found at some future time
for telling at greater length the story of these two earnest and use-
ful lives. Suffice it to say here that Mr. Guille, in recalling the
pleasurable experiences of these early literary and scientific studies
prosecuted chiefly after the rest of the houshold were in bed remarks :
" I can truly say that to them I am indebted for my introduction to
and acquaintance with a noble band of the greatest and wisest men of
the past and of the present age, whose influence upon my mind and
life have, I venture to believe, been thoroughly and lastingly beneficial."

Concurrently with the prosecution of these studies the future welfare
of his native island was ever present in Mr. Guille's mind, and com-
mencing at once in spite of his then very limited means to purchase

of the Guilk-AUes Library. xvii.

books which should form a nucleus for the anticipated collection, he
began to lay the foundation of the literary treasures which crowd the
shelves of the Guille-Alles Library to-day. At the age of twenty,
when out of his apprenticeship, he found himself the possessor of
several hundreds of volumes of standard works, many of which are
now in the Library, and upon which he must naturally look with
peculiar and very legitimate pleasure, as being the corner stones of
the subsequent splendid superstructure.

With reference to the peculiar circumstances under which this first
collection of books was got together, Mr. Guille's own remarks on the
subject may not be out of place. They certainly convey a suggestive
lesson to other young men similarly situated. He says : " The daily
habit of smoking and drinking in which so many working-men indulge
be it in ever so moderate a degree causes in the long run serious
voids in their aggregate earnings, of which indeed they alone who take
special pains to enquire into such matters can form any adequate
conception. I can certainly say that in my own case it was solely
through my having rigidly abstained from these and other equally
useless, if not hurtful luxuries, that I became at the termination of my
apprenticeship the happy owner of a valuable collection of books, such
as many a literary and scientific man might have felt proud to possess."

As a striking parallel example, and a remarkable confirmation ot
these sentiments of Mr. Guille's, there may be cited here the case of a
similar institution in England the Free Library at Poole, in Dorset-
shirewhich was presented to that town two or three years ago by Mr.
J. J. Norton, whose name as an earnest and progressive temperance
reformer is widely known and highly honoured. The striking and
beautiful building in which this Poole Library is placed cost Mr. Norton
,2,500 sterling, an amount which he believes many a man might easily
have squandered in intoxicating liquor during thirty years. On the
shelves are hundreds of good, solid, readable books. Open any of
these volumes, and what do you find? On the title-page you see a
sketch of a broken pipe, with the legend, " Norton's solid smoke." For
Mr. Norton calculates that all these handsome and valuable volumes
there congregated have been purchased for an amount which would not
exceed the lowest cost of tobacco to any one individual smoker during
ten years. Instead of puffing tobacco smoke aimlessly into the air, and
indulging moderately in alcoholic liquors, Mr. Norton has chosen to
utilise the money in thus providing his fellow-townsmen with a fine
library, well stocked with good books. Opinions on the tobacco
question are naturally very diverse. But a man need not be a bigoted

xviii. The Story in Brief

anti-smoker to regard as a somewhat uncomfortable and disquieting
experience, the fact that the British nation puffs into the air every year
from pipe, or cigar, or cigarette, the enormous sum of about sixteen
millions sterling.

As time rolled on, Mr. Guille was taken into partnership with his
former patron, Mr. Manger, as was also his friend Mr. Alles. Here,
then, was attained the first of those opportunities, to which when an
apprentice at the age of sixteen he had so hopefully looked forward,
as one of the steps by which to reach the realisation of his plans ; and
it may easily be imagined how thankfully and eagerly he now seized
it. But little did he foresee the many long, long years of constant
toil and unceasing effort that would be required to reach the coveted
goal. Most unfortunately for all parties concerned, no sooner had
the new firm been constituted, than there supervened one of the
very worst and most continuous commercial panics that the United
States have ever experienced. There had previously been a period of
unwonted activity and, as it subsequently proved, of unsound inflation;
and this was succeeded in the natural course of events, by correspond-
ing depression and widespread ruin. Hundreds of mercantile con-
cerns and a large number of banks were involved in the hopeless
crash. Business was completely paralysed, and the financial pressure
was enormous. Weak firms were collapsing in all directions, and only
the strongest successfully weathered the storm. The firm in which
Mr. Guille and Mr. Alles had become partners although substantial
enough in itself yet temporarily suffered in common with its neigh-
bours. Indeed its profits were so much decreased that when the
stock was taken and a balance struck at the end of the first three years
of association, the two junior partners found that their financial posi-
tion would have been actually better had they continued their previous
relationship with Mr. Mauger of employer and employed. Full of
confidence, however, in the immense inherent vitality of American
trade, and in the general recuperative power of the commercial com-
munity with whom they had cast in their lot, the friends held hopefully
together, and patiently waited for that proverbial turn of the tide and
rift in the cloud which, although so long delayed, came at last in full and
flowing measure. The business once more began to grow apace, and
the future became bright with the promise ,of continuous prosperity.
Indebted as Messrs. Guille and Alles thus are to the great Republic
of the West for their success in life, and for the means which have
enabled them in later years so largely to benefit their native land, it
need scarcely be observed that they have never ceased to take a lively

of the Guille- Alles Library. xix.

interest in all that concerns the prosperity of that wonderful country
on the other side of the Atlantic. They have repeatedly revisited the
scene of their early struggles and ultimate success, and on each of
these occasions it must have afforded them peculiar satisfaction to
note the continuous progress of the business which they originally
established nearly half a century ago, and to see their successors
in it still worthily maintaining those fundamental principles which
first ensured the honourable reputation that has so long been a
tradition of the old firm.

About the same period, too, the senior partner Mr. Mauger
decided to remove from New York to the neighbouring city of Brook-
lyn, where he settled down and greatly prospered, becoming, indeed,
one of its most prominent and useful citizens. This change left the
two younger partners Messrs. Guille and Alles sole possessors and
directors of the New York establishment. Soon afterwards a higher
and purer artistic taste as regards the construction and decoration of
private residences began to declare itself, and the young firm at once
set themselves to supply these growing wants. They speedily attained
a gratifying eminence in these artistic departments, while their well-
deserved reputation, both for the superior character of their work and
the commercial integrity of all their dealings, brought them a
numerous and wealthy clientele. Under such favourable conditions,
continued for a series of years, they could hardly fail to finally acquire
a just and honourable competency. Gratifying as all this was, how-
ever, there were also drawbacks and penalties attached. One result
of these long years of unremitting exertion, and of strict devotion to
their clients' interests, was the serious impairing of the health both of
Mr. Guille and of Mr. Alles a constitutional condition for which an
occasional visit to their native island was always found to provide at
least temporary relief.

It was while on one of these visits to Guernsey in 1851 the year of
the first Great International Exhibition in Hyde Park, London that
Mr. Guille wrote a few articles in the Gazette Ojficielle de Guernesey,
with the view of drawing public attention to the importance of forming
district or parish libraries in the island. These articles attracted the
notice of The Farmers' Club, an association of Guernsey country
gentlemen who met at the Catel. Their secretary, the late Mr.
Nicholas Le Beir, wrote to Mr. Guille at the request of the members,
informing him of their appreciation of his views, and of his having
been elected an honorary member of their association, in token of
their esteem. They had previously elected in a similar way the

xx. The Story in Brief

famous French poet Bdranger, and also Guernsey's national bard,
the late Mr. George Metivier. Mr. Guille accepted the honour, and
the correspondence which ensued resulted in his offering his collection
of books supplemented by a considerable sum of money towards
forming the commencement of such libraries as he had been advocat-
ing. Nothing, however, really definite was done until Mr. Guille's
next visit to Guernsey in 1855-6, when after consultation with that
devoted friend of education, the late Mr. Peter Roussel, a meeting of
a few friends including Mr. Roussel and his venerable mother, Mr.
Guille, Judge Clucas, Mr. Le Beir, and Mr. Henry E. Marquand
who were known to be favourable to the project, was held, several
handsome subscriptions were promised, Mr. Guille renewed his offer
previously made to The Farmers' Club, and a workable scheme was

The GuiLLE-LlBRARY, for so the Committee decided to name the
undertaking, consequently commenced its career in 1856. The collection
of books was divided into five sections, which were placed in separate
cases, and located at convenient distances about the island where
they were taken charge of by friends the largest case being reserved
for the town. The intention was to exchange these cases in rotation,
and so establish a circulating library in the most comprehensive
sense of the term. But this was, in reality, never carried out, for after
the volumes had been read in their first respective stations, they were
returned to their places, and left to slumber unused, until Mr. Guille
once more came to the island in 1867, and had them all brought to
town and arranged in one central depot in the Commercial Arcade.
This visit was also made on the score of health, and Mr. Guille pro-
longed his stay for a considerable time. It was also his last visit
here previous to his coming to settle down permanently in the island,
and he was accompanied on the occasion by Mrs. Guille, by Mr.
Alles, and also by Mr. Mauger, their old and valued friend and former

This visit also afforded an opportunity for the party to make a
long-talked-of and eagerly-anticipated tour through Switzerland,
which formed a delightful and welcome change, as well as a source of
intense pleasure. This entire change of air and scene, aided by the
absence of business cares, had a most beneficial effect upon Mr.
Guille's health, at all events for a time. He returned to New York in
May of the following year (1868), and resumed his accustomed place
and duties as head of the firm. But after a few months a circum-
stance occurred which disarranged all his projects. One hot sultry

of the Guille- AHes Library. xxi.

afternoon in the following August he was suddenly, and without the
least warning, stricken down by sunstroke. The attack was most
severe, and brought him to death's very door. For many months he
suffered greatly from its effects. To Mr. Guille's sensitive mind this
seizure seemed also to be a solemn summons to finally relinquish his
business cares in New York, and once more to cross the Atlantic to
carry out and complete the important educational work which he had
commenced in his native island, and to which he considered himself
so solemnly self-pledged. This impression was also made all the
deeper by the grave advice of his physician : "If you have no wish
soon to make your permanent abode in Greenwood Cemetery hasten
to inhale the invigorating air of your own sea-girt isle there, and
there alone, will you have a chance of prolonging your life for a few
years." While, as if these reminders were not sufficient, there were-
also the many accumulated volumes the tried counsellors and the
cherished gatherings of so many years waiting for their final insular
destiny, and seeming to whisper whenever he approached them :
" Why do we stand here all the day idle ? Oh, send us forth on our
mission of instruction and good-will." While, again, from a source
more authoritative still, there came the solemn injunction : " What-
soever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might," for " the night
cometh when no man can work."

Although Mr. Guille almost immediately set about responding to
this Providential call, yet nearly a year elapsed before his business
affairs in New York could be settled and his large library packed and
shipped off to Guernsey. All this, however, was accomplished in due
course, and then bidding adieu to their many American friends, Mr. and
Mrs. Guille embarked in August, 1869, on board one of the Atlantic
liners en route for their native isle, where they hoped to spend many
happy and useful years together in the organization and prosecution
of that beneficent intellectual and educational enterprise, which Mr.
Guille had so long had at heart and with which Mrs. Guille so entirely
and thoroughly sympathised. Their residence in Guernsey for the
next two years proved to be a period of unalloyed happiness, and
brought with it a most gratifying restoration of Mr. Guille's health.
Then came a blow as unexpected as it was terrible a blow whose
effect upon Mr. Guille can be more easily imagined than described.
Mr. and Mrs. Guille formed part of a pleasant gathering held one
bright summer's afternoon on the picturesque southern cliffs of the
island, in celebration of a friend's birthday, when by a sudden slip on
the sun-dried turf, Mrs. Guille was precipitated from the height on

xxii. The Story in Brief

which she and her friends were standing, and her husband was thus
bereft in an instant of that gentle and loving presence which had
enhanced so largely his past enjoyments, and to whose sympathy and
counsel he was fondly looking forward as the main support of his
declining years.

To resume, however, the main thread of this brief narrative, Mr.
Cuille, among other developments of his enterprise, opened a branch
Reading-room and Library at St. Martin's the parish in which both
he and Mr. Alles reside doing so in the hope of being thereby able
to draw the young men of the neighbourhood from the degrading
attractions of the public house. For three years he kept this com-
fortable room open, while in winter and summer neither rain nor
storm prevented him from being present there every evening to
personally superintend the undertaking. Ultimately, however, he
found the strain too much for his health, and he discontinued the
branch so as to concentrate more attention upon the central establish-
ment in town.

For five-and-twenty years that is to say, from 1856 to 1881 Mr.
Guille worked steadily and unostentatiously at the benevolent enter-
prise which he had inaugurated. Death removed several of his early
coadjutors, and for many years he bore all the financial burdens and
toiled on single-handed and alone. What was still more discouraging
was that he unfortunately had to encounter for a very long time an
almost incredible amount of mental supineness on the part of those
whom he was so disinterestedly seeking to benefit. It was not as
though any desire for knowledge existed among the mass of the
Guernsey people, and he only had to assume the pleasant duty of
satisfying that desire. Such a desire did not exist. Many of the
people not only never had read any books but they flatly declined to
begin. Mr. Guille felt that this deplorable attitude ought to be com-
bated, and he therefore persevered in the thankless and difficult task
of trying in the first place to create the want, and in the second place
to satisfy it. A quarter-of-a-century's earnest effort in a good cause,
however, cannot fail to produce some fruit, and since 1881 much
brighter days have dawned. Mr. Guille's lifelong friend and former
business partner, Mr. Alles, who had often previously substantially
assisted him, has from this last-named date thoroughly associated
himself with the work, the result being that the rudimentary scheme
of 1856 at length culminated in the present splendid Guille-Alles
Library, which was thrown open to the public in the old Assembly

of the Guillc-Alles Library. xxiii.

Rooms on Monday, the 2nd of January, 1882, bearing on its then
main entrance the appropriate motto : Ingredere ut profidas " Enter
that thou mayst profit."

The old and well-known firm-name under which Messrs. Guille and
Allcs had so long and so successfully carried on business in the new
world, was thus, in 1881, happily resumed in the lovely little spot
whence, in their early days, they both started in the race of life. This
time, however, the association was not contracted in the form that
ordinary business partnerships usually are, for a stated term of years,
nor with a view to worldly gain, but for ALL TIME, and with the laud-
able intention of promoting the highest interests of the whole com-
munity. One important result of this patriotic association was the
immediate accession to the Institution of an extensive and most
valuable collection of works the fruit of Mr. Alles' many years of
independent gathering in the fields of literature and science and also,
which was of still greater importance, of his assuming an equal share
in the expenses and responsibilities of the enterprise under its future

These old Assembly Rooms, which were originally built in 1782 at
a cost of about ,2,500, had therefore been for just a century the
fashionableyfry^r of the Island's festivity, when they were thus trans-
formed into the permanent home of the Guille-Alles Library. During
those previous hundred years their historic walls had enclosed many
a brilliant gathering and looked down on many a fair romance.
Often and often in the earlier days of the century might it have been
said respecting them, in the words of Byron slightly altered :

There was a sound of revelry by night,

And Guernsey's sea girt isle had gathered then
Her beauty and her chivalry ; and bright

The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men ;
Full many a heart beat happily ; and when

Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
Soft eyes looked love to eyes that spoke again

And all went merry as a marriage bell.

Now, however, the scene was changed. The tripping feet and the
mazy dance were there no longer, but the busy brain and the enquir-
ing spirit had supplied their place. The ancient glory, however, had
not departed; the mode of its manifestation was merely changed.
The well-filled shelves of the present noble library still enshrine as

Xxiv. The Story in Brief

illustrious a company as ever the rooms did of yore, of old-world
worthies who are present in their works, and who, along with the
more modern writers also fully represented go now so far towards
swelling that glorious band of

Bards, martyrs, patriots, sages,

The noble of all ages,

Whose deeds crowd History's pages
And Time's great volume make.

Spacious as were these new premises in comparison with the former
ones, it was soon found that further extensions would be necessary in
order to provide room for the various departments which the founders
desired to add. When the Library was first removed to the Assembly
Rooms the premises were leased from the States, who had purchased
them in 1870. Subsequently, however, in December, 1883, Messrs.
Guille and Alles purchased the rooms from the States for ,900
British, and afterwards bought from the parish the plot of land behind
the rooms which belonged to ths Rectory and upon which they
could construct their proposed additions. Building operations were
subsequently commenced, and on Monday, November 26th, 1888, the
commodious new rooms and the present handsome main entrance
were thrown open. The site occupied by this new entrance and the
rooms immediately above it, was kindly given by the Guernsey States,
or chief governing body of the Island. These extensions comprise
the new Reading-room, the Magazine-room, the Reference Library,
and the Book- room for the issue department. This latter room
measures 63 feet by 25 feet, and is fitted with book-cases capable of
holding from 45,000 to 50,000 volumes. Attached to it is a large
anteroom for the convenience of the subscribers. The issue of the
books is greatly facilitated by the use in the Fiction department of the
Cotgreave Indicator. This excellent arrangement is the invention of
Mr. Alfred Cotgreave, a well-known English Librarian, who is also
the compiler of this present Encyclopaedic Catalogue, and who acted
as principal Librarian here during the arrangement and organisation

Online LibraryGuernsey Guille-Allès library and museumEncyclopeadic catalogue of the lending department → online text (page 2 of 206)