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Marc Brunel autograph letter

Year 1839
Object no. LDBRU:2005.1
Size 253mm (w) x 204mm (h)
Location WMDC2 - upper floor
Acquired Gift
Phil Burkett
A short letter written by M.I. Brunel, dated 16 January 1839

This letter is an instruction for a payment of £5 to be organised. It was written by M.I. Brunel to Joseph Bennett, secretary to I.K. Brunel from 1836-59. The letter was sent to 18 Duke Street, I.K. Brunel’s home address; it was likely sent from the Tunnel works in Rotherhithe, where M.I. Brunel then largely lived. The reason for the payment is not known.

The payment was made to Jean Louis Dubuisson (1750- c. 1839-44), a French-descended Huguenot born in London who worked as a stockbroker. It is likely he is the ‘John Lewis Dubuisson’ of the parish of St Katherine in Middlesex, who on 14 December 1835 received £180, 11s and 6d compensation from the British government following the emancipation of nine enslaved people owned by him in Jamaica.

Dubuisson had known M.I. Brunel from at least 1825, when a dinner with the Dubuisson family is noted in Brunel’s diary. Other references in Brunel’s diaries indicate that he provided reports to Dubuisson, likely about financial matters. In later years, Brunel was drawn by Dubuisson’s niece, the artist Elizabeth Dubuisson (fl. 1830-40s, d. 1853). Elizabeth Dubuisson later witnessed MI Brunel’s will in 1844, suggesting the family remained close to the Brunels for many years.

The letter carries a black wax seal with a criss-cross pattern, likely indicating M.I. Brunel wore a signet ring. This seal appears to be entirely different to that present on a later letter of 22 July 1839 held at the Science Museum (MS/0346/07, fol. 1) which carries a seal displaying Brunel’s initials.


Transcription of body of letter:

Dear Sir,

I have sent direction for Mr L. Dubuisson to call upon you and request you to give him five pounds, — on my own account —

Yours a[lways]

M.I. Brunel

16. Jan. 39

Further Reading
Institute of Civil Engineers, London, TT/BD/1, Thurs. 28 Apr. 1825
Institute of Civil Engineers, London, TT/BD/2, Thurs. 2 Feb. 1826, Fri. 3 Feb. 1826
The National Archives, London, PROB 1/89, fol. 3v
Accounts of Slave Compensation Claims. 1838. London: ‘Ordered, by the House of Commons, to be printed’, p. 3
Buchanan, R.A. 2001. The Life and Times of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. London: Hambledon Continuum, p. 154
Noble, Celia. 1938. The Brunels Father and Son. London: Cobden-Sanderson, p. 96
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