So who exactly were the 'British Literalist'?
The Books That Redefined C.T. Russell's Beliefs
Literalist interpretation developed in Europe and the UK in the 17th Century. (There are earlier examples, but that's when it became a well established theology.) It devleoped first in the Netherlands and Germany. British writers adopted it, and it was the principal theological viewpoint from roughly 1600 through the 1870s in the US and England.
In very simplified form, they were millennialists. They looked for Christ's near return. Unlike Millerites, they believed the Bible should be taken literially unless it clearly indicated something was symbolic. So they believed in the restoration of the Jews to divine favor. Some adopted second-probation. Adventists (Millerites) rejected the idea that many would be given "a second chance" to hear the truth and be saved. Those Literalists who adopted second probation said many had never had a chance to hear God's word, and they were in fact not advocating a second chance, but a fair chance at salvation for all.
In America Literalist belief was the standard approach to prophecy. Russell was exposed to it by the two ministers of the Congregational Church he attended. One of them wrote on prophetic themes. Russell never adopted the Adventists' spiritualizing approach, but remained a literalist. It is from that source that most of his doctrines come.
In Schulz' Separate Identity one finds a detailed analysis of Russell's doctrines. Almost none of them are distinctively Adventist. Most were rejected by Adventists, but not by Literialists. In the US most literalists were called "age to come" believers and some (those with whom Russell most clearly identified) called themsleves The One Faith. These centered on the paper The Restitution.
Schulz and Froom (Prophetic Faith of our Fathers) have good discussions of the difference between Adventists and Millinarian One Faith belief.
People in the late 1800s like Russell were willing to give the Bible another chance. It was a matter of- if we can only work out some of the bugs it would be a better Book.
Voltare, Rousseau, Darwin while popular among the educated but would have to wait another century for their thoughts and research to take hold.
The following books provide the bigger picture of the centuries-long prophetic speculation, of which the 19th century was one small part:
"Apocalypse & Millennium: Studies in Biblical Eisegesis", Kenneth G. C. Newport (Cambridge University Press, 2000); www.cambridge.org/9780521773348
"A History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization", Jonathan Kirsch (Harper Collins, 2006).
The lesson that history teaches is that people do not learn the lesson that history teaches.
He very likely read "The Even Tide" written by John Aquila Brown in 1823.
Barbour read Even-Tide. I don't believe Russell did. He came to Barbourite chronology second hand. We know Barbour read it because of an off-handed comment by Isaac Wellcome. There is no proof - not a paraphrase, a borrowed thought or any other indication - that Russell knew anything about John Aquila Brown.
Russell was one of many who made prophecies based on the great pyramid, following in the footsteps of Charles Piazzi Smyth ("Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid").
"In 1891, Pastor Russell published the thrid volume of his famous series Studies in the Scripture. ... A letter from Smyth is reproduced in which the Scottish astronomer praises Russell highly for his new and original contributions." [Fads and Falalcies in the Name of Science, Martin Gardner, Dover Books]
I found this statement interesting about your definition of a literalist "In very simplified form, they were millennialists. They looked for Christ's near return. Unlike Millerites, they believed the Bible should be taken literially unless it clearly indicated something was symbolic"
When I was studying with the JWs years ago ( before getting baptized), I heard this explanation from a number of elders when I ask how JWs understood the bible. Would you still consider them literalist today?
Based on the information you've shared thus far, I'm inclined to believe that Russell was more of a theist, than anything else. Specifically speaking, Im thinking he would have been more content with a path to dig deeper into a better understanding of the bible rather than packaging up a few doctrines into a NEW religious movement that would become a huge money maker, with millions of devoted followers.
For the moment I still believe that that idea was more of Rutherford's and/or Knorr, not Russell's. I'm expecting my research to provide me that answer.
I extend much appreciation to you for sharing those books. A quick glance at thier content has given me a little excitement ....I've got some more reading to do.