Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Egerton, Francis Henry

768054Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 17 — Egerton, Francis Henry1889Charles William Sutton

EGERTON, FRANCIS HENRY, eighth Earl of Bridgewater (1756–1829), founder of the 'Bridgewater Treatises,' younger son of John Egerton, bishop of Durham [q. v.], by Lady Anne Sophia Grey, daughter of Henry, duke of Kent, was born in London on 11 Nov. 1756, and educated at Eton and at Christ Church and All Souls' College, Oxford. He matriculated at Christ Church on 27 March 1773, proceeded B.A. on 23 Oct. 1776, and M.A. on 24 May 1780. In 1780, also, he was elected fellow of All Souls, and appointed (30 Nov.) prebendary of Durham. In the following year he was presented by the Duke of Bridgewater to the rectory of Middle, and in 1797 to that of Whitchurch, both in Shropshire. He retained the preferments till his death, but for many years their duties were performed by proxy. He was elected F.R.S. in 1781 and F.S.A. in 1791, and was a prince of the Holy Roman Empire. In January 1808 he and his sister Amelia were raised to the rank of earl's children, and on 21 Oct. 1823 he succeeded his brother John William as Earl of Bridgewater, Viscount Brackley, and Baron Ellesmere. He was a good scholar, a lover of literature and antiquities, and a patron of learning, but was withal a man of great eccentricity. He lived for many of his later years at Paris, in a mansion he called the Hótel Egerton, in Rue St. Honoré. His house was filled with cats and dogs, some of which were dressed up as men and women, and were driven out in his carriage, and fed at his table. In his last feeble days he stocked his garden with large numbers of rabbits, and with pigeons and partridges with clipped wings, in order to enjoy the 'sport' of killing a few heads of game for his table.

His literary works were chiefly printed for private circulation. From some of them it is evident that he regarded his ancestry with the greatest pride, while they also show that he lived in unhappy discord with his contemporary relations. He printed the following: 1. 'Life of Thomas Egerton, Lord High Chancellor of England' (reprinted from vol. v. of Kippis's 'Biographia Britannica'), 1793, 20 pages, enlarged to 57 pages 1798, further enlarged to 91 pages 1801, fol., again in 1812 (Paris, fol.), and finally in 1816 (Paris, 4to). The last contains voluminous important letters and historical documents, which have, however, no bearing whatever on the life of Egerton, and are printed without order or method. It was printed to p. 62 by Mame in 1816, and as far as p. 508 by other printers, but was never completed. 2. 'Life of John Egerton, Bishop of Durham.' Contributed to Hutchinson's 'Durham,' vol. iii., 1794, and reprinted several times subsequently, with portrait. 3. 'Eὺριπἱδου Ιππὀλυτος Στεφανηφόρος cum Scholiis,' Oxford, 1796, 4to. 4. 'Description of the Inclined Plane executed by Francis Egerton, third Duke of Bridgewater, at Walkden Moor,' originally printed in 'Trans. Soc. of Arts,' afterwards in a French translation, 1803, and in other languages. 5. 'Aperçu Historique et Généalogique' (on the Egerton family, by F. Hargrave, dated 1807), Paris, 4to; and 1817, 8vo. 6. 'John Bull' (an anonymous political pamphlet), Lond. 1808, 8vo. 7. 'Character of Francis Egerton, third Duke of Bridgewater,' Lond. 1809, 4to, reprinted at Paris, with portrait. 8. Translation of Milton's 'Comus' in Italian and French, with notes, Paris, 1812, 4to. 9. 'Lettre Inédite de la Seigneurie de Florence au Pape Sixte IV, 21 Juillet 1478' (with notes), Paris, 1814, 4to, and 1817, 8vo. 10. 'A Fragment of an Ode of Sappho, from Longinus; also an Ode of Sappho from Dionysius Halicarn.,' Paris, 1815, 8vo. 11. 'Extrait avec additions du No. 44 du Monthly Repertory,' Paris, n. d., 8vo; also 1817. 12. 'Four Letters from Spa in May 1819, to John William Egerton, Earl of Bridgewater,' Lond., 8vo. 13. Letters (about seven) to the same in 1820 and 1821, Lond. 8vo. 14. 'A Letter to the Parisians and the French Nation upon Inland Navigation, containing a Defence of the Public Character of his Grace Francis Egerton, late Duke of Bridgewater, and including some notices and anecdotes concerning Mr. James Brindley,' Paris, 1819. Also the second part, Paris, 1820, 8vo. There is a French translation. A third part was printed, but not circulated. 15. 'Note C, indicated at p. 113 in the Third Part, of a Letter on Inland Navigation,' Paris (1823?), 8vo, being observations on the book of Job, &c. 16. 'Numbers ix. x. xi. xii. xiii. of Addenda and Corrigenda to the Edition of the Hippolytus Steplianéphorus of Euripides,' Paris, 1822, 4to. These notes, which are printed in a most eccentric manner, have little or no relation to the text. 17. 'An Address to the People of England,' Paris, 1826, 8vo. 18. 'Family Anecdotes,' Paris, 4to and 8vo. Extracts from this book are given in the 'Literary Gazette,' 1827. 19. A catalogue (of his printed and manuscript works), Paris, 4to. 20. 'A Treatise on Natural Theology,' printed by Didot, Paris, but not finished. He issued a series of engraved plans of his Paris house, and several portraits of members of his family, one of which is inscribed 'Sophia Egerton, natural daughter of Francis Henry Egerton, Earl of Bridgewater, educated at Mme. Campan's.'

He died unmarried at his residence in Paris on 11 Feb. 1829, aged 72; and his remains were brought to England and buried at Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, near the family seat, Ashridge. With him died all his titles.

By his will, dated 25 Feb. 1825, he bequeathed 8,000l. for the best work on 'The Goodness of God as manifested in the Creation.' The disposal of this money was left to the president of the Royal Society, who divided it among eight persons — Dr. Chalmers, Dr. Kidd, Dr. Whewell, Sir C. Bell, P. M. Roget, Dean Buckland, Rev. W. Kirby, and Dr. Prout — as authors of eight essays, since known as the 'Bridgewater Treatises.'

His valuable collection of manuscripts and autographs he left to the British Museum, with a sum of 12,000l., of which the interest was partly for the custodian and partly for the augmentation of the collection. The 'Egerton Manuscripts,' as they are called, relate chiefly to the history and literature of France and Italy. The funds of the collection were increased in 1838 by Lord Farnborough.

[Gent. Mag. 1829, vol. xcix. pt. i. p. 558; Edwards's Founders of the Brit. Mus. 1870, p. 446; Complete Peerage, by G. E. C. (i.e. Cokayne), p. 23 in the Genealogist, April 1887; Doyle's Official Baronage, i. 230; Sims's Handbook to the Brit. Mus. p. 47; Le Neve's Fasti (Hardy), iii. 312; Cat. of Oxford Graduates; Cussans's Hertfordshire, Hundred of Dracorum, p. 140; Querard's La France Littéraire, iii. 11, vi. 146; Allibone's Dict. of Authors, i. 245; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

C. W. S.