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2002 articles 1988 articles

W. R. S. Ralston (1828-89): scholarship and scandal in the British Museum

Barbara McCrimmon

Abstract

ONE of the best-known members of staff in the British Museum in the late 1860s and early 1870s was William Ralston Shedden Ralston, an expert on Russian life and literature who was both a translator for, and a friend of, Ivan Turgenev. Ralston was respected in the Museum for his linguistic ability, unusual for his day, and most useful for the cataloguing of the Slavonic books in the collections. He was known outside the Museum as a lecturer on Russian history and literature, and a raconteur of Russian folk-tales, for both public and private audiences. He could have continued in a distinguished career if he had not let his temper overcome his better judgement by allowing an East-European friend to take advantage of him to make a strong public protest about the administration of the Museum. This resulted in his abrupt departure from his place of employment and a cloud on his good name.

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