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OHN ADDINGTON SYMONDS was born at Oxford on the 10th of April, 1807. His father, who belonged to a family of old standing and respectability in *Shropshire and Warwickshire, had settled in that city as a medical practitioner after marrying Miss Mary Williams, of a family established at Aston, in the county of Oxford. This circumstance determined the future career of his son, who received his earliest education at Magdalen College School. There he showed such aptitude for classical studies, and so strong a bent toward literature, that, had it not been decided for him to pursue his father's profession, he would naturally have devoted his abilities to the Church, or have become the Fellow of an Oxford College. The development of his intellectual powers was rapid. At the age of sixteen, having already made himself a fair Greek and Latin scholar, and laid the foundation of those classical tastes which he retained through life, he commenced the study of medicine, attending the anatomical courses of Dr. Kidd, and the lectures on chemistry of Dr. Daubeny, and acting meanwhile as dresser at the Radcliffe Infirmary to Mr. Hitchings. In 1825 he entered the University of Edinburgh,
The immediate ancestors of Dr. Symonds had been settled for about a century in Kidderminster, whither they had removed from Shrewsbury. They claimed a common descent with the family of Symons or Symeon, of Pyrton, the heiress of which branch married John Hampden.
where he graduated as M.D. in 1828. At Edinburgh he was distinguished among his fellow students for the union of literary tastes and pursuits with an unflinching devotion to the studies of his profession. The time that he could spare from science was spent upon philosophy and poetry. While toiling night and day in the fever wards of the hospital, or mastering by long hours of practice and patient observation the then novel art of the stethoscope, he was among the first admirers of Shelley, and foremost in all discussions relating to elegant literature. Many pieces of poetry composed by him at this period shew him to have been a master of facile and vigorous versification. At the same time he neglected neither the graver studies in pathology and anatomy which were necessary for his professional training, nor literary reading of a more robust and bracing type than poetry. The soundness of judgment and logical precision with which he was eminently gifted by nature, and the industry of research which made his diagnosis valuable in all the more complicated cases of disease, were being confirmed and exercised by the perusal of Bacon, Dugald Stewart, and Dr. Brown, his three favourite philosophers. For this unusual combination of philosophical and literary ability, with practical sagacity and wisdom in the discovery and treatment of disease, he continued to be celebrated through his lifetime, forming, as it were, a link between his profession and the world of letters, and carrying on the tradition of the Sydenhams and the Harveys of whom England is justly proud.
But it was requisite that he should suppress as far as possible the inclinations of his genius toward extraneous studies, and concentrate his powers upon the practice of medicine. Accordingly,
I have often heard my father say that whatever skill in auscultation he possessed was due to his having learned the use of the stethoscope by original experiment and observation, and not by tradition.
EARLY LIFE IN BRISTOL.
after taking his degree, he returned to Oxford, and took an active part in his father's practice until 1831, when he removed to Bristol at the instance of his great uncle, Mr. John Addington, of Ashley Court, near that city. The whole country at that period was agitated with the disturbances that attended the passing of the Reform Bill. It was a time at which political feuds raged high, especially in Bristol, an essentially Tory city, provoked almost to madness by the terror of its riots. Dr. Symonds was by connections and conviction a Liberal. In voting and in expressing his opinions he did not depart from his principles, though, as a young professional man, he had to fight an uphill way at first and to conquer some political antagonism.* His talents, however, won for him from the date of his first residence in Bristol an eminent position among his brethren. He was soon elected Physician to the General Hospital and Lecturer on Forensic Medicine at the Bristol Medical School. The latter post he exchanged in 1836 for the Lectureship on the Practice of Medicine, which he held till 1845; and in 1848, after resigning his place at the Hospital, in consequence of the increase of his private practice, he was elected its Honorary and Consulting Physician.
In 1834 Dr. Symonds married Harriet, the eldest daughter of James Sykes, Esq., by whom he had five children, four of whom survive. His married life was but brief; for in 1844 his wife died at the time when he had successfully ended the first stage in his life's journey, and was looking forward to years of undiminished activity but of less anxiety. With words so few and cold as these it is best perhaps to pass over the great joy and the great sorrow
He used to tell, in after life, that on voting at the first contested election after he came to Bristol, an older physician than himself had vainly warned him that he would destroy his professional prospects if he ventured to assert his right to think for himself in politics.
† Edith Harriet, wife of Charles D. Cave, Esq., of Stoneleigh House, Clifton; Mary Isabella, wife of Sir Edward Strachey, Bart., of Sutton Court, Somerset. shire; John Addington Symonds, of Clifton Hill House, Bristol; and Charlotte Byron, wife of T. H. Green, Esq., of Balliol College, Oxford.