Other notable members

3rd Marquis of Lansdowne

 

Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, Marquis of Lansdowne, K.G. Engraved by F.J.Smith after a Daguerreotype by Kilburn in 1852, for the "Illustrated London News"

Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquis of Lansdowne, K.G. (1780-1863), was the only son of the 1st Marquis of Lansdowne (2nd Earl of Shelburne) by his second marriage. He succeeded his elder half-brother to the title in 1809. One of the most notable of Whigs of the first half of the 19th century, he was a champion of catholic emancipation, the abolition of the slave-trade and the cause of popular education.

He served in Canning's cabinet as Secretary of State for Home Affairs in 1828 and was Lord President of the Council both under Gray and Melbourne and during the whole of Lord John Russell's Ministry.

His position was one of great power but he exercised consistent moderation. He and his refined wife Louisa made their home in Wiltshire, Bowood House, a magnet for society. He was patron of arts, and the local poets Thomas Moore (1779-1852), George Crabbe (1754-1832) and William Lisle Bowles (1762-1850) were frequent guests at his social gatherings, mingling with statesmen, scientists and other writers.

He had many connections with France and it is significant that the well known writer Mme de Stael visited Bowood House and Bath in 1813. His great interest in the arts and sciences made him the perfect choice as the first President of Bath Literary and Scientific Institution (BRLSI).

Trudy Wallace 2002

 

The poet Thomas Moore

Bust of Thomas Moore in the BRLSI collection

The poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852) was born in Dublin but lived in Sloperton, near Bowood House, where he was a frequent visitor at the social gatherings of his patron, the Marquis of Lansdowne.

Together with the Marquis of Lansdowne and the Wiltshire poets Crabbe and Bowles, he was present at the grand opening of the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution in January 1825. From his diaries we get a flavour of this evening:

The grand opening today of the Literary Institution in Bath. Attended the inaugural lecture by Sir G. Gibbs, at two. Walked about a little afterwards - and to dinner at six. Lord Lansdowne was in the chair [...] "Lord L. alluded to us in his first speech, as among the literary ornaments, if not of Bath itself of its precinct [...].

Thomas Moore then himself gave a speech, received by "a burst of enthusiasm" by his audience in which he talked of the "springs of health with which nature had gift the fair city of Bath".
Thomas Moore and his wife Bessie were frequent visitors to the city, as their beloved daughter Anastasia went to school here. His poetry was loved by his contemporaries, especially his Irish Melodies, Lalla Rookh and the Loves of the Angels. In Prose he wrote the Life of Sheridan and as a friend of Lord Byron, he published The Letters and Journals of Lord Byron and in 1830 edited Byron's collected works.

He was a frequent guest in aristocratic circles at Lacock Abbey and Bowood, dining, dancing, singing, reciting poetry and talking about politics.This was witnessed by an astonished 6th Duke of Devonshire, visiting Bowood in April 1826, who wrote in his diary that Thomas Moore, "the little urchin" was shown straight into Lord Lansdowne's room without any ceremony.

The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution is fortunate in having in its collection a bust of the poet Thomas Moore.

Trudy Wallace 2002

 

Philip Bury Duncan
John Shute Duncan

 

John Shute Duncan (1768-1844, left) and Philip Bury Duncan (1772-1863).
The two Duncan brothers were very important to the BRLSI. In 1824 and 1825, they feature very prominently in the minutes of the Committee meetings which record the foundation of the Institution. They helped greatly, administratively and creatively in setting up the Institution: as Chairmen of meetings and as committee members concerned with management of the museum and with collecting and arranging antiquities

They were also generous donors of casts from Florence, books and many natural history items. Philip Bury Duncan was elected Chairman of the BRLSI in 1834 to 1859 and in 1841 he also became President of Bath United Hospital. His essays on a variety of subjects were published in Oxford in 1840 and show the extent of his knowledge on sculpture and Roman antiquities, on Zoology, Geology and foreign travel.

To be part of the BRLSI was only a sideline for the brothers They had houses in Bath but their work was principally in Oxford, as keepers of Oxford's Ashmolean Museum. John Shute Duncan, who had a career at the bar and a fellowship in New College, became keeper of the Ashmolean in 1823 for six years. His younger brother followed in his footsteps and took over as keeper from 1829-54.

This painting by of P.B. Duncan was commissioned from Mr. Phillips, R.A. by members of the Institution in 1837 to celebrate his long-term Chairmanship, his many generous donations, and his provision of funds to refurnish the library.

Through this continuity they achieved a miraculous transformation of a museum they had found in a neglected state. They set up governing principles, started a radical reorganization programme and prepared a 51 page "Introduction to the Catalogue of the Ashmolean Museum". This first catalogue, published in 1836, shows how the Duncans had transformed and extended the old collection, especially in natural history, and attracted many new donors.

This approach must have been part of their strategy in Bath, as many substantial donations took place during their time at the Institution. In 1854 the 82 year old P.B. Duncan resigned his keepership after a long and fruitful career at the Ashmolean. He died in his house at Weston near Bath, age 91, in 1863. As the Duncan brothers had an important influence on the BRLSI the Duncan Memorial Fund was set up in 1867 to help the improvement of the library and the museum. Information from Jerom Murch "Biographical Sketches of Bath Celebrities", (London 1893) and archival material from the BRLSI.

The double portrait of John Shute Duncan and Philip Bury Duncan shown above was a copy of the paintings in the Oxford Ashmolean Museum, by the artists T. Kirkby and W. Smith. It was given to the BRLSI in 1867 by the daughter of J.S. Duncan, Mrs. Fraser from Manchester, and hung above a brass plate in the vestibule of the BRLSI in Terrace Walk. Dedicated to the brothers, this plate celebrated their long and fruitful association with the Institution.

Trudy Wallace 2002