|Description||Scope of Symonds collection:|
Please note that the John Addington Symonds Collection is large, relating to both to his activities and family life, and those of his immediate family. It comprises accessions of material deposited by members of the Symonds family and items acquired by purchase, between 1946 and 2013. The papers, 1801-1980, consist mainly of correspondence to and from Symonds, as well as manuscript and draft versions of Symonds' published and unpublished works, family and personal papers, biographical notes, pamphlets, photographs, newspaper clippings, notes on history, translation, prose and poetry. Some of the collection focuses on Symonds' life in Italy and Switzerland and his literary career and social life; also included are the papers of his daughter, Dame Katharine Furse, relating to her involvement with the Voluntary Aid Detachments and Women's Royal Naval Service during WWI and subsequently the Girl Guide movement. Several scrapbooks compiled by another daughter, Madge Vaughan, are also present and provide a rich variety of material relating to the family, as well as her own writings.
John Addington Symonds, writer and early advocate of homosexual rights, was born in Bristol, 5 October 1840, the son of Dr John Addington Symonds (1807–1871) and Harriet Symonds (1808/9–1844). He was their only surviving son, having two elder sisters, Edith and Mary Isabella ("Maribella"), and a younger sister, Charlotte. He spent his early life in Bristol before being sent to school at Harrow (1854) and then studying at Balliol College, Oxford (1858), where he became a disciple of Benjamin Jowett, the theologian and classical scholar who later became Master of the College. Symonds earned acclaim for his poem 'The Escorial', winning the Newdigate Prize in 1860 and later the chancellor's prize for his essay 'The Renaissance'. He became a fellow at Magdalen College (1862–3). Always frail, and his constitution damaged by both the stress of attempts to repress his sexual orientation, and gossip about it, Symonds broke down and was sent to convalesce in Switzerland and Italy (1863-1864). In 1864, Symonds married Janet Catherine North, with whom he had four daughters, Janet, Charlotte (Lotta), Margaret (Madge) and Katharine. He settled in London and took up the study of law, but gave it up in the face of illness and toured Normandy, Corsica and Italy for the next few years. In 1868 he settled in Clifton, Bristol, and devoted himself to a literary life. In 1877, after another episode of illness, he left England with the intention of travelling to Egypt. He stopped instead at Davos Platz, Switzerland, and decided to make the little-known resort his home. At Davos Platz he wrote several biographies, including those of Shelley and Sir Philip Sidney. He also worked on translations of the sonnets of Michaelangelo and Campanella and was known for writing volumes on the Italian Renaissance and philosophical studies. In his later years he spent an increasing amount of time in Venice, where his eldest daughter, Janet, died in 1887. In 1893, during a visit to Rome. Symonds caught a chill that developed into pneumonia, from which he died on 19 April 1893. He was buried there, in the Cimitero Acattolico, also known as the English or Protestant Cemetery, where Keats and Shelley are also buried. As well as Symonds' own published works, biographies were written by his close friend, Horatio Brown (1895), and by Phyllis Grosskurth (1964). Both works draw upon Symonds' draft autobiography, (held at the London Library), which was not published in full until 2013, as 'The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds: A Critical Edition' by Amber Regis. Symonds' two youngest daughters, Margaret (known to the family as Madge) and Katharine (who became Dame Katharine Furse) wrote autobiographical works describing their family life. Madge wrote 'Out of the Past' (London: John Murray, 1925), to which her elder sister, Charlotte (Lotta) Leaf, contributed a chapter about their mother, Janet Catharine Symonds. Katharine was the author of 'Hearts and Pomegranates', (London: Peter Davies, 1940), of which several draft and proof versions are present in her papers held in Special Collections. Biographies and published works of Symonds are available in Special Collections.
These papers are the first of many donations/purchases made 1946-2013. They were sorted through, before deposit with Special Collections by Symonds' daughter, Dame Katharine Furse, and contain her annotations, including instructions for copies to be made and several numbering systems. They comprise mainly letters written by Symonds to family and friends, 1857-1893, although there are also a few original and copy letters received, some of which are from celebrated literary figures, such as Thomas Hardy, Robert Louis Stevenson and Havelock Ellis. Symonds' correspondence, 1844-1893, is published in a three-volume work: 'The Letters of John Addington Symonds', Herbert M Scheuller and Robert L Peters eds, (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1967-1969) [hereafter Letters]. Where possible, the letter and page number from this publication are given in brackets following the descriptions below (in the form e.g. Letters 29, Vol I, pp90-1).
Further sequences of Symonds' letters, along with those of his wife, Janet Catherine Symonds (nee North) are catalogued as DM133 (1866-1892) and DM188 (1854-1892); his first and last letters, 11 June 1844 and 19 April 1893 are catalogued as DM367/1-2. DM376 mostly comprises transcripts of letters from Symonds, 1869-1892. A series of letters, 1871-1891, to Symonds from various literary figures, including Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling are held as DM368.
Typescript lists of this and many related accessions have long been available in Special Collections. A project to add these lists to the online collections database has now been completed, although, owing to time constraints only DM109 has been listed in detail at item level.