Francis Douce (Biographical details)

Francis Douce (curator; collector; British; Male; 1757 - 1834)

Also known as

Douce, Francis


Gower Street, London


Douce joined the Museum in 1807, and became Keeper of Manuscripts. He resigned after only four years much to the regret of the Trustees, notably Joseph Banks. Although Douce stated publicly that he was leaving because of ill health, his personal reasons are preserved in a note (Bodley MS. Douce e.28):
1. The nature of the constitution of the M[useum] altogether objectionable.
2. The coldness, and even danger, in frequenting the great house in winter.
3. The vastness of the business remaining to be done & continually flowing in.
4. The total impossibility of my individual efforts, limited, restrained & controuled as they are, to do any real. or at least much, good.
5. An apparent, & I believe real, system of espionage throughout the place & certainly a want of due respect towards & confidence in the officers.
6. The total absence of all aid in my department.
7. The apartments I reside in are dangerously cold in winter & like an oven in summer. The whole damp, especially the lower room where my books are in great jeopardy & which I never entered, even in summer time, without being sensibly affected with some kind of pain or unpleasant sensation.
8. The general unwholesomeness of the air from sinks, drains, the ill-contrived & filthy water closet; & most of all the large & excessively cold bed chamber with an opening to the back kitchen & all its damp & cellar like smells.
9. The want of society with the members, their habits wholly different & their manners far from fascinating & sometimes repulsive.
10. The want of power to do any good, & the difficulty of making the motley & often trifling committees sensible that they could do any.
11. The general pride & affected consequence of the committees.
12. Their assumption of power, that I think not vested in them.
13. Their fiddle faddle requisition of incessant reports, the greatest part of which can inform them of nothing, or, when they do, of what they are generally incapable of understanding or fairly judging of.
14. And lastly, the imperative, foolish & inconsiderate order that I should report on what Mr. Bean, no real auxiliary to me & who had no business in the house, was doing.
In 1828 he inherited a great part of Joseph Nollekens's fortune. Bequeathed his great collection of books, manuscripts, prints, drawings, coins and medals to the Bodleian Library, apart from Nollekens's bequest of prints in which he had only a life interest, including a substantial collection of Dürers, which came to the BM (reported byW.Y. Ottley to the Trustees, 10th July, 1834). His papers were transferrred to the Bodleian in 1930 and provide a great resource for the history of collecting in the early 19th century.


A. N. L. Munby, Connoisseurs and medieval miniatures, 1750-1850 (Oxford, 1972), pp. 35-56