Burney, James (DNB00)

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BURNEY, JAMES (1750–1821), captain in the royal navy, son of Dr. Charles Burney (1726–1814) [q. v.] and brother of Madame d'Arblay [q. v.] entered the navy in 1764, and having served on the coast of North America and in the Mediterranean with Captain Onslow in the Aquilon frigate, sailed with Captain Cook in his second voyage, 1772–4, during which time he was (17 April 1773) promoted to be lieutenant. In 1775 he was in the Cerberus on the North American station, and was recalled to sail again under Cook in his third voyage. Consequent on the deaths of Cook and Clerke, he came home in command of the Discovery, and was confirmed as commander on 2 Oct. 1780. On 18 June 1782 he was advanced to the rank of captain, and appointed to the Bristol of 50 guns, in which he went out to the East Indies, and joined Sir Edward Hughes in time to take part in the last action of the war, off Cuddalore, on 20 June 1783. It was of this outward-bound voyage that Dr. Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale: ‘I question if any ship upon the ocean goes out attended with more good wishes than that which carries the fate of Burney. I love all of that breed whom I can be said to know, and one or two whom I hardly know I love upon credit.’ From the East Indies Burney returned to England in ill-health, and did not serve again. When the war of the French revolution broke out, he made no application for a ship, and was consequently placed on the superannuated list, when his seniority would otherwise have entitled him to flag rank. His leisure had been, and continued to be, devoted to literature, and in 1803 he began the publication of ‘A Chronological History of the Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean,’ which extended to 5 vols. 4to, and was not completed till 1817; it is well known as the standard work on the subject. He afterwards published ‘A Chronological History of North-eastern Voyages of Discovery and of the Early Eastern Navigations of the Russians,’ 1819, 8vo. He was also the author of several smaller works and pamphlets, mostly on professional subjects, but including ‘An Essay on the Game of Whist,’ 1821, 16mo, which ran through several editions. He died suddenly of apoplexy on 17 Nov. 1821.

[Gent. Mag. (1821), xcii. ii. 469; Annual Biography and Obituary (1823), vii. 437.]

J. K. L.