Scope and arrangement
The Burgess family papers shed light on the personal and commercial activities of three generations of the Burgess family. These papers, chiefly correspondence, begin in 1794 with the collection's first letter from Henry Burgess, and continue through 1929, with the last letter from Henry's granddaughter, Fanny Burgess Bottin. The bulk of the papers falls between 1835 and 1863, the latter being the year of Henry Burgess' death.
The family correspondence is the centerpiece of this collection. After the four Burgess sons were full grown, no member of the family lived for long in close proximity to the other. Thus interfamily correspondence is extensive.
The papers offer details on a rich variety of British, Anglo-Persian and Anglo-American topics. Henry Burgess' papers, 1794-1863, provide a depth of detail on the monetary, fiscal and commercial policies of the British governments, particularly during the second quarter of the 19th century. The correspondence documents his attempts to gain the attention of the elite ranks of government via his suggestions regarding those policies. That he was at least partially successful is evident from the responses contained in letters from such notables as Lord Stanhope, George Canning, John Gladstone, and Lord Western. The bulk of his papers fall after 1840.
The papers of Frances Ridsdale Burgess depict the life of an invalid, intellectually thirsty Victorian gentlewoman, whose quests are all conducted within the confines of her house in Brighton. Her papers extend from 1827-1847, the bulk being from the last two years.
The papers of Charles Burgess and of Edward Burgess are a mine of firsthand information on Persia from 1828-1855. Anglo-Persian commercial and political relations and the changeable political conditions within Persia during that time are clarified. The letters written by each of the brothers give highly specific detail about their lives in the military service of various princes and as British merchants in Tabriz and Tehran. Letters from Charles after his departure from Persia in 1836 illustrate his wanderings form one continental watering hold to another until his death in 1854. Edward's letters, offering the greatest amount of detail on Persian life, continue until his death in 1844. The contrast between an opportunistic, untrustworthy Englishman (Charles) and the paradigm of the true noble gentleman (Edward) may be observed in a comparison of their papers.
Joseph Burgess' short life has left behind papers chiefly valuable for demonstrating the influence of early 19th century education upon the mind of a young Englishman: the formation of his attitudes upon such matters as England's status in the world, the usefulness of knowing French and Latin, and the ritual of dueling. Schoolboy writings of Edward and George likewise tell much of an English boy's outlook in the second decade of the 1800s.
Aspects of the life of a businessman transplanted from England to the United States are illustrated in George Burgess' papers, c.1830-1888. His correspondence, the most extensive in the collection, and his account books and diary of 1840-1843 leave many impressions of the life of a man in the textile importing trade, as well as hints of his personal life. Little information or opinion is offered, however, on U.S. politics or upheavals. George Burgess' diary and correspondence show a friendship with Mrs. John James (Lucy) Audubon that begins in 1840 and continues until her death in 1874.
The collection is arranged into six major sections, for the papers of each member of the immediate Burgess family. Each section includes the family member's correspondence arranged in chronological order. Letters exchanged between family members are filed with the papers of the writer rather than by recipient. Other series include legal and commercial papers, diaries, and personal notes, also arranged chronologically. The only material not divided by family member is a series of photographs, approximately 70 original watercolors and sketches, mostly unsigned, and genealogical material in photostat. The artwork reveals the Burgess family's strong gift for draftsmanship.
The Burgess family papers are a rich and compelling source for research into 19th century life, from the familial scene to the wider stage on which English values were demonstrated.
The Burgess family papers are arranged in seven series:
- 2 boxes
One cabinet card, seven cartes-de-visites, and approximately a dozen photographic prints. Cartes-de-visites are of Henry Burgess and a granddaughter, Anna Burgess, Fanny Burgess, Queen Victoria, and others. Travel photographs feature Seraglio Point. Some snapshots of unidentified individuals. There are approximately 70 items of original art work, largely unsigned and showing strong talent. Genealogical material is on photostats: a coat of arms and a diagram of a family tree.