John Addington Symonds: A Platonic Ugly Duckling

Children’s books are, in a way, life guides for their impressionable readers. Being a source of knowledge other than closely related family and friends, these books are written to be relatable and inspirational. It is inevitable that hints of the philosophies that children’s books intend to teach remain influential in the children throughout their lives. … Continue reading John Addington Symonds: A Platonic Ugly Duckling

The Case of the Missing Marginalia

Clifton Hill House loomed large over the life of John Addington Symonds. This structure, with its bright neoclassical facade and its dark Victorian interior could stand in for Symonds himself. The scholar's luminous career also hid a brooding and tortured inner life. Clifton Hill House's paneled living rooms full of curiosities formed the backdrop for … Continue reading The Case of the Missing Marginalia

Ionica, Love, and Loss

In his Memoirs, John Addington Symonds writes of his relationship with his Classics Professor John Conington at Harrow as an “almost wholly good” friendship (170). He describes Conington as a “scrupulously moral and cautious man,” yet also as someone that “sympathized with romantic attachments for boys” (170). Based on Symonds’ account, their relationship was not erotically … Continue reading Ionica, Love, and Loss

The “Insanity” of Symonds’ Genius

In John Addington Symonds’ Memoirs, a passing comment and marginal note regarding J. F. Nisbet’s The Insanity of Genius and the General Inequality of Human Faculty subtly reveals Symonds’ contention with the theories of his contemporaries regarding a cause for differences in sexuality. The Insanity of Genius and the General Inequality of Human Faculty,  John … Continue reading The “Insanity” of Symonds’ Genius

Symonds’ Comradeship through Leaves of Grass

Title page of Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass. Boston: Thayer and Eldridge, year 85 of the States [1860-61]. Source: Wikimedia Commons. John Addington Symonds exchanged many letters throughout his life with American poet Walt Whitman. He records his first interaction with Whitman’s Leaves of Grass with fervor: “The book became for me a sort of Bible… I … Continue reading Symonds’ Comradeship through Leaves of Grass

Symonds, Ulrichs, and German Sexology

Karl Heinrich Ulrichs' series of twelve pamphlets, Forschungen über das Rätsel der mannmännlichen Liebe ("Research on the riddle on male-male love"), published between 1864 and 1870, comprise a seminal work in the history of sexuality. For Symonds, Ulrichs’ texts lay the foundation for his understanding of “sexual inversion,” the more common term and concept before … Continue reading Symonds, Ulrichs, and German Sexology

Love and Destiny Intertwined

In his Memoirs, Symonds wrote that his “house was well stocked with engravings, photographs, copies of Italian pictures and illustrated works upon Greek sculpture” and more.  He considered “the two large folios issued by the Dilettante Society” as “among his chief favorites” (118). The Society of Dilettanti, the group of men that compiled such collections, was founded in … Continue reading Love and Destiny Intertwined