Papers of James Franck Bright (Master 1881-1906)

James Franck Bright (1832–1920) matriculated from University College in 1851.

Between 1856 and 1872, he was an Assistant Master of Marlborough College and then returned to University College as a Fellow in 1874, where he was elected Master in 1881. He was a historian in academic life, but also spent time as a member of Oxford City Council, and as Treasurer of the Radcliffe Infirmary. A supporter of women's education, in 1882 he became one of the first Oxford dons to allow women students to attend his lectures in the College Hall. He also remains the only Master to have been the victim of an attempted murder, when he was shot in 1892 by a woman claiming that his daughter’s fiancé had first pledged himself to her (the story is told in detail in an article by Dr. L.G. Mitchell in the 1995 issue of the University College Record, and with some modifications in UC:P39). More about Bright’s Mastership can be found in Robin Darwall-Smith, A History of University College (Oxford, 2008), Chapter 17.

Apart from a list (found in 1993) of subscribers to his portrait, which hangs in the Hall, the only papers of Bright in the College Archives were given to the College in February 1996 by one of his descendants, and consist of the texts of some his sermons. Family tradition remembers that Bright had a slight stutter, which may have increased their length.

Bright tended to write his sermons out complete in longhand in sheets of paper then sewn together, and give the text at the top. At some stage later in his life, he noted on several of them where and when he had preached them, and sometimes commented on their length and content. Several sermons have been corrected; it is not clear whether these revisions were made by Bright before they were preached, or when he delivered the sermon on a different occasion. He does not say whether any of these sermons were reused, but several of them bear corrections in an “older” hand, which makes this plausible.

Recatalogued in June 2002.

The Bright papers are divided into the following series:

UC:MA42/MS1   Sermons of J. F. Bright, 1858/9-97

UC:MA42/MS2   Lectures by J. F. Bright

UC:MA42/X1      Ephemera


A pdf version of the whole catalogue may be found here.