Image of Frances Burney, 1782 (painted by Edward Francesco Burney) The Burney Centre at McGill University
Home

About

Holdings

Projects

Other Publications

Conferences & Events

Burney Biographies

     Charles Burney

James Burney

Frances Burney

Susanna Burney

     Charles Burney (Jr)


Sarah Harriet Burney

    


Edward Burney

Online Texts

Burney Society

Links

Contact


McGill University
Department of English

The Burney Society

Biographies



James Burney (1750-1821)

Image of James Burney
James Burney (charcoal drawing after bust, n. d.)
By R. H. Dyer (?)



Born: June 13, 1750
Died: November 17, 1821

Works:
  • With Captain James Cook in the Antarctic and Pacific (Burney's personal journal) (1772-1773)
  • A Voyage to the South Sea in HMS Bounty, by William Bligh (edited) (1792)
  • A Chronological History of the Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean, 5 vols (1803-1817)
  • A History of the Buccaneers of America (1816)
  • A Treatise on the Game of Whist (1821)



    Birth and Early Life
    James Burney was born on June 13, 1750, in London. He was the second child and first son of Charles Burney (1726-1814) and his first wife, Esther Sleepe (c.1725-1762). At the age of ten, he was sent to sea to act as a captain's servant on the Princess Amelia. By the age of fifteen, he was a midshipman on the Aquilon.

    Voyages with Captain Cook
    In 1772, John Montagu, fourth earl of Sandwich, arranged a post for James as an able seaman on Captain James Cook's ship, the Resolution. James accompanied Cook on his second voyage of discovery to the south seas. During the voyage, he received his first commission, as second lieutenant of the Adventure, the sister-ship of the Resolution. Upon his return to England in 1774, James acted as an interpreter for Omai, the first Tahitian to visit Britain. In 1776, he accompanied Cook on his third voyage of discovery, during which James witnessed the death of Captain Cook. At the very end of the voyage, upon the death of his immediate superior, Captain Charles Clerke, in 1779, James was promoted to commander of the Discovery.

    End of Naval Career
    James was made captain of the Bristol in June 1782. His task was to accompany a dozen East India Company ships to Madras (now called Chennai). On June 20, 1783, the Bristol was involved in the Battle of Cuddalore against the French fleet. The following year, Burney became ill and was forced to return to England. Though he later petitioned for a new command, the Bristol was his final active naval position. His forced retirement was in part due to his insubordination (he had disobeyed orders in 1782) and in part due to his republican political stance. Only in July 1821, at the age of seventy-one, did he receive a promotion to rear-admiral on the retired list, due to the influence of the Duke of Clarence (later William IV), admiral of the fleet.

    Personal Life
    Over the course of his lifetime, James counted amongst his friends such major figures as Samuel Johnson, Charles Lamb, William Hazlitt, Sir Joseph Banks, and others. After his retirement from the navy, James married Sarah Payne (1759-1832) on September 6, 1785. They had two children. In 1798, James left his family for five years and lived with his younger half-sister Sarrah Harriet Burney (1772-1844). He returned to his wife and children in 1803.

    Literary Career
    After his forced retirement, Burney began his second career as a writer on the topic of exploration. His first project was to edit an edition of William Bligh's A Voyage to the South Sea in HMS Bounty, published in 1792. His major work was A Chronological History of the Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean, published in five volumes from 1803 to 1817. In 1809, James was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

    Death
    On November 17, 1821, at the age of seventy-one, Rear-Admiral James Burney died of an apoplectic stroke. He is buried the churchyard of St Margaret's, Westminster.



    Further Reading

    Online Resources

    James Burney brief biography
    Made available online by the Royal Society

    Scanned image of James Burney's nomination to the Royal Society
    Made available online by the Royal Society

    James Burney DNB entry
    By Lars Troide
     Available to online subscribers to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

    Texts by James Burney available online
    Links compiled by The Burney Centre at McGill University


    Print Resources

    Burney, James. A History of the Buccaneers of America. Ed. Malcolm Barnes. London:
    George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1949.

    ---. New Method Proposed for Measuring a Ship's Rate of Sailing. London: Royal Society, 1809.

    ---. Observations on the progress of bodies floating in a stream: with an account of some
    Experiments made in the River Thames, with a view to discover a method for ascertaining
    the direction of Currents.
    London: Royal Society, 1809.

    ---. On the Causes which Influence the Direction of the Magnetic Needle. London: Royal Society,
    1819.

    ---. A Treatise on the Game of Whist. London: Thomas and William Boone, 1823.

    ---. With Captain James Cook in the Antarctic and Pacific: The Private journal of James Burney,
    Second Lietenant of the
    Adventure on Cook's Second Voyage, 1772-1773. Ed. Beverley
    Hooper. Canberra: National Library of Australia, 1975.

    Manwaring, G. E. My friend the admiral: the life, letters, and journals of Rear-Admiral James
    Burney.
    London: George Routledge, 1931.



  • Home   About   Holdings   Projects   Publications   Conferences   Biographies   Texts   Fellowship   Burney Society   Links   Contact