Papers of Richard Bright and James Franck Bright

Scope and Content

The papers are composed of an accumulation of manuscript letters to both Richard Bright and his son James Franck Bright and letters between other correspondents. The letters collected by the daughters of the Bright family include those from Roget, Lord Salisbury, Oscar Wilde, Sir Henry Rider Haggard, Elizabeth Fry, and Robert Browning and many other nineteenth century notables. The collection includes a manuscript fragment - or leaf - from the Origin of the species by Charles Darwin, and a short signed note by his daughter (Henrietta Litchfield). Another significant signature is that of Count Zeppelin.

As far as the Darwin fragment is concerned the dimensions of the leaf are 20.5 cms x 33 cms. Apparently the leaf is the first and only draft of the Origin of the species published in 1859. It is said to be manuscript page number 277 and the last page of Chapter 7 (Instinct), and represents the 43rd leaf of the first and only draft known to exist.

Administrative / Biographical History

The physician Richard Bright was born in Bristol on 28 September 1789. He matriculated at Edinburgh University in 1808 first with the Faculty of Arts then with the Faculty of Medicine. In 1810 came a visit to Iceland after which he contributed chapters on botany and zoology to George Mackenzie'sTravels in Iceland(1811). He then studied anatomy and surgery at Guy's Hospital and St. Thomas's, London. He also became interested in geology at this time. In 1812, Bright returned to Edinburgh, again studying medicine but also geology and natural history. He graduated with the degree of MD in 1812, having written the dissertationDe Erysipelate Contagioso. Between 1814 and 1815, he travelled to the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and Hungary, and after his return to England he became an Assistant Physician at the London Fever Hospital. After contracting a fever himself, he began travelling again in 1818, this time to Germany, Italy and France. In 1820 he became an Assistant Physician at Guy's Hospital and then in 1824 he became a full Physician there. During these early years at Guy's, Bright gave courses on botany in relation to pharmacy, and gave clinical and medical lectures. In 1827 he published the first volume of reports of medical cases which contained his discovery of what came to be termed Bright's disease, Morbus Brightii. A second volume appeared in 1831. While at Guy's he also assisted Thomas Addison (1793-1860) in the composition of the text-bookElements of the practice of medicine(1839). On the accession of Queen Victoria, Bright was appointed Physician Extraordinary to the Queen. He retired from Guy's in 1843. In addition to the works mentioned above, he published many accounts of his travels and other medical treatises. Richard Bright died at his house in Savile Row, London, on 16 December 1858.

Bright's youngest son also became a physician and practiced in Cannes in the south of France. His oldest son was James Franck Bright who was born in London on 29 May 1832. James Franck Bright was educated at Rugby and at University College, Oxford. He became a Master at Marlborough College and was Head of the Modern Department there for sixteen years. In 1872, Bright returned to Oxford this time to Balliol New College and as a History Tutor. In 1874 he was a Fellow and Dean of University College, Oxford, and in 1878 an Honorary Fellow of Balliol. Between 1881 and 1906 he was Master of University College, Oxford. His publications includeHistory of England to 1900andLives of Maria Theresa and Joseph II(1897). James Franck Bright died in October 1920.

Access Information


Other Finding Aids

A card index to correspondents is available with the collection.

Related Material

The local Indexes show a reference to a Richard Bright related item in the Laing Collection (check the Indexes for more details): a letter ordering a book, no date, at La.III.366. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: drawings and case notes, 1822-1839, at Royal College of Physicians of London, Ref. MS 974; and correspondence with his father, at University of Melbourne Library, Ref. BFP/Box 14 NRA 41322 Bright. The NRA also notes for James Franck Bright: MS sermons at Oxford University, University College Archive, Ref. UC:MA42 NRA 30229 Univ Coll Oxford; and letters (15) to Oscar Browning, circa 1879-1904, Cambridge University, King's College Archive Centre, Ref. OB NRA 21235 Browning.