Borrowing its title from a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, this series, “They Asked For A Paper,” highlights interesting items from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection and suggests topics for further research.
By Melinda Creech
Manuscripts Specialist, Armstrong Browning Library
I have been transcribing a set of letters collected by Mr. and Mrs. Higford Burr. Daniel Higford Davall Burr (1811-1885) was a Member of Parliament, Justice of the Peace, and High Sheriff of Berkshire. He and Anna-Margaretta, like the Brownings, were married at St. Marylebone Parish Church. Anna-Margaretta Higford Burr (1817-1892) was an English water-colorist. She traveled extensively and entertained often at the family’s estate, Aldermaston. When her husband died, she moved to Venice where she died in 1892. Many of the letters from this album are correspondence with artists and musicians from the nineteenth century. Although the Burrs had much in common with the Brownings (art, acquaintances, Venice), only two letters of their correspondence are noted, both from the summer of 1864, and both unlocated. Robert does record going to Mrs. Higford Burr’s house to meet the Layards in a letter to Pen on 23 March 1889, the year of his death. He reports another engagement with Mrs. Burr and the Layards on 4 July 1889.
Although she does not appear in the Brownings’ correspondence, Lady Lucie Duff-Gordon (1821-1869) seems like someone they might have liked to have known.
Having become fluent in German while on a trip to Germany with her parents, John and Sarah Austin, she became a proficient translator.
She married Lord Duff-Gordon in 1840 and their home attracted a remarkable circle of friends and acquaintances. Lady Lucie was known for her progressive and tolerant views. In 1861 she contracted tuberculosis, and moved to South Africa and later Egypt in search of a better climate.
She is most well known for her Letters from Egypt, 1863–1865 (1865) and Last Letters from Egypt (1875), written to her family while she was living in Egypt. She returned to England for visits in 1863 and 1865.
This undated letter from Lady Lucie Duff-Gordon to Mr. Burr, written from The Gordon House, Esher, in Surrey, thanks him for his gift of an “incendiary jacket.” She says that she had just received the gift that morning and had already made use of the jacket and “put a bit into my pipe and smoked it.” Oddly, she was reported to have smoked cigars when she went riding, because “they suppressed the racking coughs caused by consumption,” not a treatment that would have been recommended today.