Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gurney, Hudson

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GURNEY, HUDSON (1775–1864), antiquary and verse-writer, born at Norwich on 19 Jan. 1775, was the eldest son of Richard Gurney of Keswick Hall, Norfolk, by his first wife, Agatha, daughter of David Barclay of Youngsbury, Hertfordshire. He was educated by his grandfather Barclay, by Dr. Thomas Young, the Egyptologist, and by John Hodgkin [q. v.] He inherited a fortune from his father. In early life he travelled on the continent with his friend Lord Aberdeen. His first publication was a privately printed ‘English History and Chronology in Rhyme.’ In 1799 he published ‘Cupid and Psyche’ (4to and 8vo), an imitation in verse of the ‘Golden Ass’ of Apuleius (also 1800, 1801, and in Bohn's ‘Classical Library,’ ‘Apuleius’). He also published ‘Heads of Ancient History,’ 1814, 12mo; ‘Memoir of Thomas Young, M.D.,’ 1831, 8vo; ‘Letter to Dawson Turner on Norwich and the Venta Icenorum’ [Norwich, 1847], 8vo; and ‘Orlando Furioso’ [1843], 8vo (verse translation, written in 1808, of parts of the poem). He also wrote for the ‘Archæologia,’ chiefly on English antiquities, in vols. xviii. (on the Bayeux Tapestry), xx–xxii. xxiv. xxv. and xxx. He purchased from the widow of Samuel Woodward all his manuscripts, drawings, and books on Norfolk topography, and printed for Mrs. Woodward's benefit the ‘Norfolk Topographer's Manual’ and the ‘History of Norwich Castle.’

In March 1816 Gurney became M.P. for Newtown, Isle of Wight, and sat in six successive parliaments. He served much on committees. In 1835 he was high sheriff of Norfolk. He was elected fellow of the Society of Antiquaries on 12 March 1818, and was vice-president from 1822–46. He contributed to the society many hundreds of pounds for the publication of Anglo-Saxon works. He was also fellow of the Royal Society (elected 15 Jan. 1818); member of the British Archæological Association from 1843; vice-president of the Norfolk and Norwich Archæological Society; and a supporter of the Norwich Museum and Literary Institute. Gurney lived at Keswick Hall and in St. James's Square, London, where he saw much society till the last twenty years of his life, when he suffered from ill-health. He died at Keswick Hall on 9 Nov. 1864, and was buried in Intwood churchyard, near Norwich. He was the head of the Norfolk family of the Gurneys, and his great wealth chiefly descended to Mr. J. H. Gurney, M.P. for Lynn. He possessed a library of from ten to fifteen thousand volumes, in every one of which he used to boast he had read. He left some interesting diaries, which were not to be published for fifty years. Between 1822 and 1830 he had presented to the British Museum H. Jermyn's manuscript collections for the history of Suffolk; the seal of Ethelwald, bishop of Dunwich; and Roman tesselated pavements from Carthage (Brit. Mus. Guide to the Exhibition Galleries; cf. Michaelis, Ancient Marbles, &c., p. 175 n.) Gurney is described as having a habit of questioning everything: ‘he seemed never to agree with you;’ but he was kind, liberal, and hospitable. He married in 1809 Margaret (d. 1855), daughter of Robert Barclay, M.P., of Ury, Kincardineshire. They had no children. Gurney's portrait (when about twenty) was painted by Opie, and also, about 1840, by Briggs. The ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for 1865 states that the originals are at Keswick Hall, and copies in the possession of Mr. Daniel Gurney of North Runcton.

[Gent. Mag. 1865, 3rd ser. xviii. 108–10; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1886, vol. i. see ‘Gurney of Keswick;’ Journ. Brit. Arch. Assoc. xxi. 254 f.; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Athenæum, 1864, July–December, p. 675; Archæological Journal, xxii. 377.]

W. W.