Burney Family Manuscripts Collection

Scope and Content

Burney manuscripts and letters, bound in one volume. The collection comprises:

  • Two autograph letters (1801 and 1810) of Dr Charles Burney, the musician, to his son Charles Burney, and notes in his hand;
  • Two poems in the hand of the younger Charles Burney (brother of the novelist Fanny Burney), addressed to his grand-daughter Fanny, with a letter (1814) to the same;
  • Two autograph letters of Charles Parr Bumey (1841 and 1860).

Administrative / Biographical History

Dr Charles Burney (1726-1814), musician and author, began his career as an organist and music teacher, receiving the degree of D.Mus. from Oxford in 1769. In the 1770s Burney established himself as a literary man, no longer simply the music teacher to the upper classes and in 1772 he was elected FRS. He finally gave up his teaching activities at the age of seventy-eight. He received a royal pension of £300 per year from 1805, and was elected as a corresponding member of the Institut National de France late in 1810.

Charles Burney (1757-1817), schoolmaster and book collector, was born on 4 December 1757, the son of Dr Charles Burney and his first wife, Esther Sleepe. In January 1777 he was admitted a pensioner at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, but was sent down for selling books from the college library. He managed to obtain the degree of MA from King's College Aberdeen, and returned to London in July 1781. Doubts about his character made it impossible for him to obtain a curacy, so he settled into the career of a schoolmaster. He was assistant master in Dr William Rose's private school at Chiswick, succeeding him as headmaster on his death in 1786 and moving the school to Hammersmith. At this time he developed his reputation as a scholar, and obtained honorary doctorates in law from King's College Aberdeen and the University of Glasgow. His redemption in the eyes of society was completed in 1807 when he was finally ordained a deacon in the Church of England; advancement in the church followed rapidly. Elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1802, he was appointed professor of ancient literature at the Royal Academy in 1810, and the same year elected to the Literary Club. He was also a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Charles Parr Burney (1785-1864), the only son of Dr Charles Burney, was educated by his father and at Merton College, Oxford, gaining an MA in 1811 and DD in 1822. In 1813 Dr Charles Burney retired from the school at Greenwich in favour of his son, who until then had been his assistant. Charles Parr Burney remained at the school until 1835, from 1838 to 1848 he was rector of Sible Hedingham, Essex. He was Archdeacon of St Albans in 1840 and of Colchester from 1848 until his death. Burney was elected FRS in 1814 and FLS in 1823.

Fanny Anne Burney (1812-1860), diarist, was the eldest in the family of two sons and four daughters of the Reverend Charles Parr Burney. she married Major James Wood on 1 July 1835.

Sources: John Wagstaff, 'Burney, Charles (1726-1814)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/4078; Lars Troide, 'Burney, Charles (1757-1817)', op. cit. - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/4079; Harriet Blodgett, 'Burney, Fanny Anne (1812-1860)', op. cit. - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/48927. By permission of Oxford University Press.

Access Information

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library from the booksellers Colbeck Radford & Co. Ltd on 30 July 1938 (Catalogue 72, no. 26).


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan, project archivist, and Elizabeth Gow, with reference to:

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography articles on Dr Charles Burney, Charles Burney and Fanny Anne Burney.
  • Frederic Boase, Modern English Biography (Truro: Netherton and Worth, 1892).

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of Additions to the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1937-1951 (English MS 913).

Related Material

The Library holds additional material relating to the Burney family within the Thrale-Piozzi Collection (ref.: GB 133 TPM). The National Register of Archives records holdings of material elsewhere relating to Dr Charles Burney, Charles Burney and Charles Parr Burney.