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2002 articles 1979 articles

Panizzi and Madden

Michael Borrie


IN a publication celebrating Antonio Panizzi's centenary, an article on his dealings with his mortal enemy. Sir Frederic Madden, the Keeper of Manuscripts, might seem to strike a jarring note. They nevertheless make a tale well worth the telling. The epic feud between these two great public servants is a fascinating, if unedifying, episode in the history of the British Museum. Panizzi's side has been told: Madden was a splenetic fuss-pot who obstructed him at every opportunity through jealousy and irrational hatred. Madden's version, set down in his diary- over thirty years, portrays Panizzi, 'the Italian dog' as a cunning, scheming charlatan consumed with personal ambition and malice towards himself. There is some truth in both these caricatures. Panizzi dealt with opposition like a mafioso, and Madden's dislike of him turned into an obsessive hatred that made his own life at the Museum a misery. But their relationship seems to have begun equably enough.

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