Nugent, Christopher (1697/8–1775), physician, was born into a prosperous catholic family, possibly in Co. Tipperary, in late 1697 or early 1698. Educated in France, he graduated MD (probably in Montpellier) and returned to work as physician in the south of Ireland, later moving to Bath. In the autumn of 1750 he treated Edmund Burke (qv), who had gone to Bath to try to recover from a severe illness. Burke expressed his gratitude in verses entitled ‘Epistle to Doctor Nugent’ (dated September 1751, but probably written a year or two later): ‘I know a man, who to th’extreme had brought, / The strictest virtue, and the deepest thought / Who science lov'd, and yet had only trod / The path of science, as a road to God. / . . . His temper cheerful, innocent, and free / Could stoop to all things; he could stoop to me’ (Somerset, Note-book, 37–8).
Nugent published An essay on the hydrophobia (London, 1753), which begins with an account of his successful treatment of a case of the disease in June 1751. He translated it into French in 1754 and it was published in Paris. In 1756 Nugent again treated Burke at his home in Bath, allowing Burke to make the acquaintance of his daughter, Jane Mary Nugent, whom he married on 12 March 1757. In 1758 Nugent bought a small house for the couple at Wimpole Street, Marylebone. At this stage Burke was largely dependent upon his father-in-law, who had moved to London, and generously assisted the young couple with money and hospitality. After a while, Nugent moved in with them at the house in Wimpole Street, and at the end of October 1762 they all moved to Queen Anne Street, where they lived together until July 1768. Burke and his wife then moved to Charles Street (latterly Charles II Street), while Nugent spent the last years of his life in Suffolk Street, the Strand.
Nugent was one of the nine original members of the Turk's Head, in Gerrard Street, Soho (afterwards called the ‘Literary Club’), which was founded in February 1764; the others included Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke and Oliver Goldsmith (qv). At first the club met for supper once a week, on Monday, but in December 1772 the day was changed to Friday. Nugent, a catholic, was held in great affection by his fellow club members and they forswore the eating of meat on Friday largely for his sake; recalling this after his death Samuel Johnson said: ‘Ah, my poor dear friend! I shall never eat omelette with thee again!’ (Thrale, 101).
On 25 June 1765 Nugent was admitted as a licentiate of the College of Physicians of London and that year was also elected a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1766 he was stricken with gout which troubled him until his death. One of the best friends of Nugent and Burke was Charles O'Hara (qv) (1705–76), an Irish landowner and MP, with whom they corresponded regularly. On 18 November 1771 Burke wrote to O'Hara to warn about Nugent's health. Nugent, having assisted his sister, Mrs Augier, in her last illness, was recovering from a dangerous fever. Burke noted ‘A father, a friend, and a physician in one would be a heavy loss’ (Hoffman, 505). Nugent recovered but fell ill again two years later, and after a long illness died 12 November 1775 in Suffolk Street, London.
He married Colonel Lake's daughter, from Holycross, Co. Tipperary; she is stated to have been a presbyterian. They had a daughter, Jane Mary (1734–1812), and two sons, John Nugent (1737–1813), surveyor-general of the customs in London, and Christopher (1758–1762?). There is an oil portrait of Nugent (1772) by James Barry (qv), in the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath.