Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brett, Robert

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BRETT, ROBERT (1808–1874), surgeon, was born on 11 Sept. 1808, it is believed at or near Luton, Bedfordshire. As soon as he was old enough, he entered St. George's Hospital, London, as a medical pupil, and passed his examinations, both as M.R.C.S.E. and L.S.A.L., in 1830. He then probably filled some hospital posts, and most certainly married; and at this time he was so deeply imbued with religious feeling that he wished to take holy orders, and go abroad as a missionary. But he was dissuaded from such a step, and continued the practice of his profession. On the death of his wife, he went as assistant to Mr. Samuel Reynolds, a surgeon at Stoke Newington, whose sister he married, and with whom he entered into a partnership which lasted fourteen years. He continued to practise at Stoke Newington until his death, on 3 Feb. 1874.

He entered heart and soul into the tractarian movement from its commencement, doing all in his power as a layman to forward it; he was honoured with the friendship of most of the leaders, especially Dr. Pusey, and his whole life and means were spent in promoting the interests of this section of the Church of England. Even the motto on his carriage was 'Pro Ecclesia Dei.' It was owing to his calling the attention of Edward Coleridge, of Eton, to the deplorable condition of the ruins of St. Augustine's, Canterbury, that a scheme was set on foot which resulted, through the munificence of Mr. Beresford Hope, in the establishment of St. Augustine's Missionary College. He parcelled out the parish of St. Matthias, Stoke Newington, and was the chief agent in the building of its church, as he also was subsequently in the erection of two churches at Haggerston and St. Faith's, Stoke Newington. He did other practical good work in founding the Guild of St. Luke, which consists of a band of medical men who co-operate with the clergy. He was an active member of the first church union that was started, and was at the time of his death a vice-president of the English Church Union.

Although, as may be imagined, his time was well occupied, yet he found leisure to write many devotional books (sixteen in number), such as 'Devotions for the Sick Room,' 'Companion for the Sick Room,' 'Thoughts during Sickness,' &c. He was buried on 7 Feb. 1874 at Tottenham cemetery. A large number of clergymen, noblemen, physicians, and barristers attended his funeral.

[Private information.]

J. A.