April 1891: The Candie Library
A series of letters to the Star, beginning April 16, 1891. Percy Groves, the first Librarian and relative of Osmond Priaulx, was notorious for running the Priaulx Library—then known as the Candie Library—as a private fiefdom. He was taken to task for this by Osmond Priaulx's old friend and collaborator in the creation of the Library, Amias C Andros. Those days are long gone, we are proud to say; we use the front door now (although admittedly, it was originally the back door!) and have excellent drains, and our visitors can enjoy all the wonderful views from the House!
THE CANDIE LIBRARY
SIR:- A rumour is gaining ground that important structural alterations are about to be effected in the Candie Library. On dit that the public, in future, will be confined strictly to the Book Room, on the ground floor, to which they will have to enter through one of the windows, and that all access to the house, entrance hall, cloakroom, and lavatories, will henceforth be denied them. I hope there is no truth in this report. Perhaps Mr A C Andros,1 through your columns, may be able to reassure us. If so, we shall feel much obliged to him.
I am , Dear Sir, Your obedient servant,
A FREQUENTER OF THE LIBRARY. April 13, 1891.
The Star, April 25, 1891
SIR.—In reply to sundry enquiries levelled at me as to certain alterations which I am informed are now in progress at Candie Library, allow me in self-defence to assure my friends in Guernsey that I have had no hand in them whatever. I should consider myself disloyal to the memory of my employers, now dead, if I assisted in the undoing of anything they designed and approved, or countenanced alterations which I feel they would not have agreed to. The conversion of Candie House from a private residence into a building wholly devoted to the use of the public, for which purpose £2,000 was granted by the States, was deliberately considered and planned in every detail of its arrangements by the donor, Mr. Priaulx, Capt. Priaulx, and myself. Together we thrashed out the scheme, and were satisfied with the result. So also I believe were the States. When therefore I am told—though I confess I hardly believe it—that no sooner are my friends and collaborators both dead, than transformations have been decided upon by which the public will be in future confined to the book room, with an entrance through one window and an exit into the backyard through another, I can but congratulate myself that, so far as my connection with Candie is concerned, I too have vanished from the scene.
Your obedient servant, A.C.A.
London, 24th April, 1891.
The Star, April 28th, 1891
SIR.—[...] Surely A.C.A. will, on due reflection, confess that the gentlemen who form the Council are capable of judging what is best for the Institution, for the well-being of which they, alone, are responsible?
As a matter of fact,—a fact that should be very well known to A.C.A.—the interior arrangements of of the Candie Library have not given such universal satisfaction. Chimneys which smoke, drains which emit 'The vilest compound of villainous smell/That ever offended nostril;' and dry-rot from garret to cellar, can hardly have been inculded in the scheme which A.C.A. claims to have so thoroughly 'thrashed out,' and therefore he ought not to object to the Council dealing effectually with such nuisances.
It is an absolute necessity that the drainage of Candie House should be entirely reconstructed, and while that work is being done, the Council have decided to make certain alterations in the Library itself, of which those who really do use and know the requirements of the Library, highly approve. These alterations will in no way affect the architectural beauty of Candie. The ridiculous notion of a 'Frequent Visitor' that, in future, visitors will be admitted through a window would be hardly worthy of notice, had not A.C.A. seized on the idea to—I suppose—give force to his letter. Let me, however, assure A.C.A. and his friend 'Frequent Visitor,' that should they again honour the Library with their presence, they will obtain free admittance through a door—a wide door; they will find a comfortable lobby in which to hang up their hats and coats, and deposit their umbrellas or sticks; they will be able to enjoy the 'literary feast' which the bookshelves provide, from 10.30 a.m. to 9 p.m., without interruption; and if during that period they need the further accommodation, to which A.C.A. delicately alludes, there will be no necessity for them to traverse a back-yard or scramble through a window in order to reach the wished-for haven.
Yours faithfully, J.P.G. [John Percy Groves]
27th April, 1891
SIR.- [....] A.C.A. deals only with the fact that that the house given for the use of the public is being converted into a private residence, in which remonstrance he is perfectly justified, his close personal intimacy with Mr. Priaulx gave him the certain knowledge of what his feelings and wishes were, and he was employed to carry them out. [....] Certain rooms only were set aside for the Librarian's use, and amongst those to be thrown open to them was a fine-reading room on the first floor. This room is now being furnished as a private drawing-room by the Librarian for his family! Did the States vote their £2,000 for the purpose of turning Candie House into a private family mansion, with only the actual book room for the public? Will they not interfere? I heard it said as a lame excuse, that 'so few people go there.' Neither the late Mr. Priaulx nor the States made the number of readers a condition, that I know of. Probably, more people would go were the Library always open, but far oftener is the placard'"Library closed' on the door than otherwise, and when readers come from a distance to find closed doors, they naturally do not come often. I have also heard it remarked that it has such an appearance of a private residence that some object to go in as they feel as if they were intruding! What then, will be the feeling now that Mr. Priaulx's gift to the Guernsey public is turned into a private mansion, in which the public are generously admitted to one room! On dit the very name is to be changed to 'The Grove'!
I am, Sir, Yours truly, FAIR PLAY.
April 29th , 1891.
SIR.—[....] I had had no hand in rumoured alterations, which, if it be true that the Library is in future to be entered from the East instead of the West, I declare to be as absolutely direct a reversal of Mr. Priaulx's and Capt. Priaulx's intentions as could have possibly been devised.
[....] Nevertheless, too sincerely do I revere the memory of Mr. Priaulx—than whom a kinder old friend I never had—and too bitterly do I still deplore the loss of his nephew, Captain Priaulx, to feel anything but regret that aught should have occurred to intensify my sense of how much their loss has cost me. I am Sir, Your obedient servant, A.C.A.
London, 30th April, 1891.
1 Amias Andros, wealthy journalist and writer. He oversaw the project to convert Candie House into a Library on behalf of his friend, Osmond de Beauvoir Priaulx, the Library's founder and benefactor, who was based in London. He wrote a description of his endeavours which can be found amongst his collected writings in the Library.