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Burnet family papers

Call Number: MS 114

Scope and Contents

These papers pertain to members of the interrelated Burnet, West, and Williams families descended from Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury, England, 1643-1715. The papers have been divided into three groups: the papers of Richard West, d. 1726; the papers of his son, Richard West, 1716-1742; and papers of the Burnet family. Within each group correspondence is arranged alphabetically by author.

The papers of Richard West (d. 1726) consist largely of letters received during the last two years of his life, while he was Chancellor of Ireland. There are letters from government officials concerning affairs of state, including William Wood's patent on copper coinage for Ireland, discontent in Ireland in 1725-1726, and rebellion in Scotland in 1725. Among the correspondents are Richard, Baron Edgecumbe, the receiver-general, vice-treasurer, treasurer of war, and paymaster-general of revenues in Ireland; the Duke of Newcastle, Thomas Pelham-Holles, one of the lords justices, secretary of state for the southern department, and joint secretary of state for Scotland; William Pulteney, Earl of Bath, an active parliamentarian; George Bubb Dodington, Baron of Melcombe, a lord of the treasury and clerk of the pells in Ireland; and Sir Robert Walpole. There is also a letter from West to George I requesting a pension for his family after his death, a copy of the warrant signed by George I granting the pension, and a list of West's estate.

The papers of the younger Richard West consist of three letters and of poems written by West and Daniel Gaches. The poems cover various subjects and are undated except for one "upon the Peace of 1762" written by Gaches, who was then a fellow of Kings College, Cambridge, and censor of the University. Of the three letters, one discusses the state of West's health and another, written by John Williams to West's mother, discusses his education.

The papers of the Burnet family, consisting of correspondence, genealogical papers, and wills, deal almost entirely with the Dutch estate which Bishop Burnet inherited from his wife, Mary Scott, and with the claims of John Henry Williams, great-grandson of Bishop Burnet, to that estate. Exceptions include a letter from Rudyard Kipling to S.M. Acklonby concerning a literary reference, and a letter from William Oliver (1659-1716) about medicines and physical ailments.


  • 1725-1936


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown, though much of the material in this collection is likely in the public domain. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Henry C. Smith, 1954.


The papers are arranged in three groups: the papers of Richard West, d. 1726; the papers of his son, Richard West, 1716-1742; and papers of the Burnet family.


2.25 Linear Feet (1 box, 1 folio)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


These papers pertain to the interrelated Burnet, West, and Williams families descended from Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury, England. Among the papers are the personal correspondence of Richard West (1716-1742), poet; of his sister, Mary West Williams (1715-1800); of her son, the Rev. John Henry Williams (b. 1747); and of her father, Richard West, Sr. (d. 1726), lawyer, playwright and statesman; family genealogies; legal papers; and other material. Included are two letters from doctors discussing various physical ailments in the light of medical knowledge of the time; letters (1724-1726) to Richard West, Sr. (when he was Chancellor of Ireland) from several Government officials, including Granville, Newcastle, and Walpole discussing various affairs of state; a collection of poetry written by Richard West, Jr., and Daniel Gaches; and information on the Dutch estate of Bishop Gilbert Burnet (1643-1715), and especially on the claims of the Rev. John Henry Burnet to the inheritance of that estate.

Biographical / Historical

Richard West (d. 1726), birth year unknown, was a lawyer and a playwright. He married Elizabeth Burnet in April 1714. They had a son, Richard (1716-1742) and a daughter Molly. West died on December 3 1726. (From the Dictionary of National Biography, Vol 20, pages 1249-1250)

Richard West (1716-1742) was born in 1716. He attended Eton and Oxford and died at a young age on June 1, 1742. (From the Dictionary of National Biography, Vol XX, pages 1250-1251.)

A Burnet-West-Williams Family Genealogy is available in the repository.

Guide to the Burnet Family Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Janet Elaine Gertz
March 1983
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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