The George Burges Collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Papers of George Burges (1786-1864) of Ramsgate, co Kent, classical scholar, including printed volumes of classical texts with Burges's annotations and notes compiled by Burges.

Administrative / Biographical History

The classical scholar George Burges (1786-1864) was born in Bengal in around 1786 and was probably the son of Thomas Burges (d.1799) of Calcutta, India. He was educated in Britain at Charterhouse School and later he entered Trinity College, Cambridge in 1802. He attained his B.A. (1807) and M.A. (1810), and was a private tutor or ‘coach’ in Cambridge for a number of years. He was regarded as an excellent teacher and ‘could speak Greek as readily as he could English’ ( Athenaeum, 23 Jan 1864).

Burges published translations of the works of Euripides, such as Troades (1807) and Phoenissae (1809), and also translated the works of Aeschylus, such as Supplices (1821), Eumenides (1822), and Prometheus (1831). He edited Poppo’s Prolegomena (1837) and the Fragment of Hermesianax (1839), and also translated the works of Plato (1848), new readings in Hermann’s edition of Aeschylus (1848), and the Greek Anthology (1852). He was a frequent contributor to the Classical Journal (which was founded by Abraham John Valpy in 1810), and also contributed to The Gentleman’s Magazine, and wrote a series of articles entitled ‘Hungry handless’ in The Era. In addition, he composed a play Erin, or, The Cause of the Gods (1823) under the pseudonym of ‘An Asiatic Liberal’, which he dedicated to Lord Byron; and he also published a pamphlet on the use of native guano (1848). He was a fierce critic of the abilities of Charles James Blomfield (1786-1857) as an editor of Greek, and was also critical – in a review in The Times (1840) – of a translation of Demonsthenes’s De corona by Henry, Lord Brougham and Vaux (1778-1868).

Burges married Jane (1801-83) in the 1820s with whom he had six children (three son and three daughters). Burges had inherited considerable private property but lost the majority of his fortune as a result of financing various speculations and inventions (such as the operation of a coach service along New Road, London; and a machine for the aerial conveyance of passengers from Dover to Calais); hence, in 1839, he applied to the Royal Literary Fund for financial assistance. In 1841, Blomfield – who was then Bishop of London – secured for Burges a pension of £100 p.a. for his services to Greek literature. Despite this pension, poverty forced him to keep a lodging house in Ramsgate, Kent, in his later years. He died, aged around 78, in January 1864.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on access to this collection. Viewing is by prior appointment. Please contact archivist@chethams.org.uk.

Acquisition Information

Possibly purchased by Chetham's Library at the sale of the library of John Eglington Bailey (1840-1888), but no records have been found in the gift or accession books, catalogues or handlists concerning these papers.