The Book That Scared Symonds

Throughout the first volume of Symonds’s Letters, Symonds rarely writes about leaving a book unfinished. Often, Symonds discusses how engaged he is in his reading, from describing how “enchanted” he was with Berkeley’s Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge to how he “devoured” Collins’s Woman in White (Letters, 158, 242). There are moments when … Continue reading The Book That Scared Symonds

The First Step in Creating Symonds’s Network

Network theory, also commonly referred to as graph theory, uses graphs to represent relations between distinct objects, whether those be people, neurons, companies, or even abstract concepts. Due to its versatility, network theory can be applied to a variety of fields such as sociology, neuroscience, operations research, and public health, and offers an efficient way … Continue reading The First Step in Creating Symonds’s Network

Deciphering Symonds’s Coat of Arms: A Reflection

After spending time thinking about Symonds’s name and family history in my previous post (entitled “What’s in a name?”), I decided to continue along the same theme with this one. Within the Johns Hopkins University Special Collections Library appears a copy of Agamemnon: A Tragedy taken from Aeschylus that was translated by Edward FitzGerald and … Continue reading Deciphering Symonds’s Coat of Arms: A Reflection

Symonds and Boccaccio’s “Artistic Inferiority”

Over the course of his career, one curious writer Symonds referenced frequently was Giovanni Boccaccio, a fourteenth-century Italian poet and prose writer famous for works such as The Decameron. Not only is Boccaccio discussed among other famous Italian authors, Dante and Petrarch, in the “Italian Literature” volume of his Renaissance in Italy series, but Symonds … Continue reading Symonds and Boccaccio’s “Artistic Inferiority”

The Commonplace Book of Sophia Elers

The commonplace book developed in the hands of sixteenth- through nineteenth-century European women as a form of privatized intellectual engagement. A dearth of formal women’s education and an emphasis, rather, on domestic skills both necessitated the search for academic outlets and provided women with ample time to find them. Women turned to commonplace books to … Continue reading The Commonplace Book of Sophia Elers

British Ballads and Symonds’s Spiritual Terrors of Childhood

In his childhood, John Addington Symonds constantly suffered from “spiritual terrors” (Memoirs, 71). He identified several works that took hold of his imagination, including “a book of old ballads in two volumes” (ibid.). A copy of one likely candidate, The Book of British Ballads (edited by S. C. Hall and published between 1842 and 1844), … Continue reading British Ballads and Symonds’s Spiritual Terrors of Childhood

Symonds, Harrow, and Plato: Different Forms of Love

Woodcut of Plato and his students

In his Memoirs, Symonds describes his discovery of Plato–specifically the Phaedrus and the Symposium–as “the revelation I had been waiting for, the consecration of a long-cherished idealism. It was just as though the voice of my own soul spoke to me through Plato…” (Memoirs, 152). This refers specifically to the speeches made on love–particularly, “Greek love” between two … Continue reading Symonds, Harrow, and Plato: Different Forms of Love

Harrow: Pantomimed Heterosexuality

To say that Symonds was disgusted by the version of homosexuality that he saw at Harrow is an understatement. Symonds saw the relationships at Harrow as brutal and vulgar, which eventually led him to discover Plato and the idealized form of homosexuality that the Platonic dialogues espouse (Memoirs, 152). However, the comfort that Symonds found … Continue reading Harrow: Pantomimed Heterosexuality