BRIGHT, John, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts

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BRIGHT, John (1811-1889). Statesman.
Collection of c.80 Autograph Letters Signed, with a few notes etc., various sizes, 1843-1888.

To a wide variety of correspondents and covering a large period of Bright's working life, including most of his principal interests and concerns: arranging political meetings (but declining on the grounds of health to speak in the open air in 1866); discussing publications, parliamentary speeches (his own and others'), the Church Rates Question, possible prosecutions, the plight of three orphan girls, his health (especially in his later years), Reform Club business (on one occasion declining to attend a political dinner on the grounds that 'my presence would only add to the prevailing sense of discomfort'), appointments (generally declining to help); rarely touching upon personal matters ('bereavement which as long as I live will always seem recent'); recommending a school ('I ought to say that the Warden or Principal is my son in law'), and the absurdity of a tax on coats of arms. Inevitably some letters are of a social nature. To many different correspondents, including Sir Lewis Mallet, Charles de la Pryme, Sir Charles Reed, Chapman and Hall (about copies of the Life of Cobden), Mrs [Millicent Garrett] Fawcett, Lord [John Duke] Coleridge, W.E. Forster, Arnold Morley MP (on the serious illness of his father, Samuel Morley), and those quoted below; others to fellow Quakers. Written on paper of the National Anti-Corn-Law League, and from addresses in Plymouth, Rochdale (particularly One Ash), London (House of Commons, Hyde Park Street, the Reform Club, Hanover Square, 132 Piccadilly) and Manchester. In generally good condition; some letters showing signs of previous mounting; some soiling.

To George Reynolds, 28 March 1844: '... I regret now that I said any thing to the gentlemen who called on me which gave them any expectation of my being with you [this section scored through by another hand]. Your case is one I am greatly devoted to - but I am now in another walk & must work as I am.'
To C.E. Rawlins on the same day: '... I have shewn thy note to Mr Cobden. Do you not make a mistake in having Banquets on so large & expensive a scale? ... You give wine with the dinner & thus encourage the habit to drinking freely & you exclude hundreds of good men ...'
To John Scobie, 1 June ['6mo'] 1844: '... no one is more anxious than I am that the discussion should be conducted in the most friendly spirit - nothing can do more harm than acrimony in such a cause. Believe me, you are greatly mistaken if you fancy we have any ill will to the anti slavery Socy.'
To Charles Gilpin, 24 October 1846: '... With respect to a meeting in Manchester on the subject of capital punishment I think our friend J. Brotherton would be better in the chair than myself. ...'
To W. A. Scott, 4 letters, January to May 1849, with a note probably from the recipient 'respecting Father's unwitting infraction of the Excise Laws'.
To William Tothill in Bristol, 27 April 1852: 'I have already read the report of the "Eastern Steam Navigation Compy.". I think the late Govt. have done wrong towards the Compy. & the public. I fear however that now there is no remedy.'
To John Ellis, 12 March 1855: I hope a more rational state of mind is supplanting the recent folly. I have had many letters from Clergymen of the Church of England opposing the course I have taken on the [Crimean] War. There is a strong talk of peace, & my letters go rather in that direction - a real good spontaneous meeting in any considerable Town in it's favor would do much good, in helping the Govt. & the Press to a right conclusion. But if peace should come now what a Bedlam we shall prove ourselves to have been for two years past! ...'
To his sister Priscilla, 16 November 1857 [towards the end of his period of nervous illness and his return from the Continent]: '... all communication seems to have ceased between us for too long a time, & I wish to reopen it. ... the commercial hurricane brought me home, that I might be on the spot, & see the devastation it was making. ... We had a visit from Chas Sumner of the United States' Senate whilst at Llandudno. He is a fine looking man - intelligent & agreeable. ...' Bright also includes a good deal of personal and family news.
To Charles Sturge, 12 December 1861: 'I was hoping for a meeting in Birmingham less of a party character than usual - to express an opinion in favor of moderation & peace on the part of your merchants & manufacturers. If they are not prepared for this, we must let affairs take their course for a time. I hear however that our Govt. intends war, & that the people, as usual, are ready to fall into the trap laid for them. I do not know Mr. Scholefield's views & feelings on this American question - but I should not like to come to a meeting with him unless we were, in the main, agreed. All this preparation for an "emergency" is but creating the "emergency", & putting obstacles in the way of concession on the part of the Washington Govt. War will not come from the other side of the Atlantic - it will have its origin here.
To T. Gibson [not Milner-Gibson] in London, 1 February 1864: What you say of the Laborers in Yorkshire is doubtless quite true. In the counties where manufacturies are extensively carried on, the rate of wages among the farm laborers is much increased. I spoke of the average of farm laborers in the United Kingdom ...'
To Arthur Ryland in Birmingham, 12 January 1865 [On the suggestion that the carpenters might form a cooperative]: 'There is no Cooperative Society her [Rochdale] composed of persons in any particular trade. The society is a general one. ... I agree with you in the opinion that [the carpenters'] business is not one which can be managed on the cooperative principle, except as a joint stock Com[pan]y - & this, I suspect, would soon become just like any other joint stock compy, as our Cooperative Cotton Mills have. ...'
To Bonamy Price, 18 November 1865, drawing his attention to an article in the Pall Mall Gazette: '... I suppose the object of the writer is to alarm those who may possibly think it not unlikely that I may be asked to join the Govt. If he knew my feeling on such a subject, or rather on that subject, he would not have given himself so much trouble.'
To the Editor of the Daily News, 2 January 1873 [perhaps a draft and headed in another hand 'Mr Cobden on the Land Question']: The condition & prospects of the agricultural laborer are now occupying much public attention. As a contribution to the discussion, I send you a letter which was written nine years ago by Mr. Cobden, & was published at the time under the signature of R.S.T. A private note in his hand-writing, now before me, dated Feby 17 1864 acknowledges the authorship of the letter. I think it cannot fail to do good, written on so great a question & coming from an authority so entitled to respect. May I request room for it in the Daily News? I wish it could be published in every newspaper in the kingdom favorable to a thorough examination & reform of our Land Laws.'
To James Pilkington (formerly MP for Blackburn), 14 April 1879: '... Public affairs are very muddled, & I see no easy way out of the muddle. This Govt. goes in deeper & deeper & what they will leave to their successors, one dare scarcely look at or imagine. ... Be happy in the seclusion from politics & business to which you have attained. ...'
[No: 25979]


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