Morrison, Alfred (DNB01)

MORRISON, ALFRED (1821–1897), collector of works of art and autographs, second son of James Morrison (1790–1857) [q. v.], founder of the firm of Morrison, Dillon, & Co., Fore Street, London, was born in 1821, and received from his father a large fortune. He was high sheriff for Wiltshire in 1857. He was a devoted and discriminating collector. His houses at Fonthill and Carlton House Terrace, London, were full of rich Persian carpets, fine examples of Chinese porcelain, Greek gems and gold work, and miniatures, but he specially interested himself to seek out artistic craftsmen in all countries, and employed them for years in the slow and careful production of masterpieces of cameo-cutting, inlaying of metals, and enamelled glass. In this manner he became the possessor, and, in a way, the originator, of many remarkable specimens, which he was proud to believe equalled anything produced during the most famous periods of artistic excellence. Between 1860 and 1878 he formed an extensive collection of engravings, of which a part was described in a printed 'Annotated Catalogue and Index to Portraits by M. Holloway' (1868, large 8vo). His collection of pictures was small but choice, and included the finest Clouet out of France and the best Goya outside Spain.

The chief occupation of the last thirty years of his life was the accumulation of an extraordinary collection of autographs and letters, perhaps never rivalled by any private person, no less remarkable for its extent than for its completeness and historical and literary interest. It contains every kind of epistolary document dealing with politics, administration, art, science, and literature, ranging from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries, and especially relating to the public and private life of monarchs, statesmen, and other persons of mark of all European countries, particularly Great Britain, France, and Italy. Many of the manuscripts are of great importance. The correspondence between Nelson and Lady Hamilton was for the first time fully printed in his catalogue. The papers of Sir Richard Bulstrode, who died in 1711 at the age of 101, contain his newsletters, which may be looked upon as a companion to, and a continuation of, Pepys's 'Diary.' Morrison printed for private distribution two series of handsome volumes describing the collection. The first series, in large 4to, with full descriptions of the documents and many facsimiles, was the subject of an elaborate review by M. Leopold Delisle (Journal des Savants, Aout-Septembre 1893). The second series is in a more handy form, without facsimiles but with a more ample reproduction of the text of the documents.

Morrison died at Fonthill, Wiltshire, on 22 Dec. 1897, at the age of seventy-six. He married, in 1860, Mabel, daughter of the Rev. R. S. C. Chermside, rector of Wilton, Wiltshire. His wife survived him with two sons Hugh (b. 1868), and James Archibald, elected M.P. for the Wilton division of Wiltshire in October 1900 and two daughters. He was a man of fastidious taste, of retiring disposition, and of wide information on the subjects in which he was interested.

The catalogues of his autographs are: 1. 'Catalogue of the Collection of Autograph Letters and Historical Documents formed between 1865 and 1882, compiled and annotated under the direction of A. W. Thibaudeau' [London], printed for private circulation, 1883-92, 6 vols. large 4to (facsimiles, the name of Thibaudean appears on the titles of vols. i-iii.; only 200 copies). 2. Second series, 1882-93 [London], 1893-6, A to D, 3 vols. large 8vo. 3. 'The Hamilton and Nelson Papers, 1756-1815' [London], 1893-4, 2 vols. large 8vo. 4. 'The Blessington Papers' [London], 1896, large 8vo. 5. 'The Bulstrode Papers,' vol. i., 1667-76 [London, 1897], large 8vo.

[Times. 27 Dec. 1897, p. 7; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1898, i. 1068; Annual Register, 1897, p. 204; Murray's Handbook for Wilts and Dorset, 1899, pp. 410-11.]

H. R. T.