Nostalgic Analysis in the Study of Same-Sex Relationships

Silhouettes of Charity and Sylvia facing each other

John Addington Symonds writes both sexologically and nostalgically in A Problem in Greek Ethics and his Memoirs. He approaches same-sex desire from an analytical angle while also inviting readers to luxuriate with him in an appreciation of antiquity. By way of these seemingly oppositional techniques, he engages with same-sex relationships in a way that both … Continue reading Nostalgic Analysis in the Study of Same-Sex Relationships

Masses, Hymns, and Symphonies: Symonds’ Life in Music

Interior of St. James' Concert Hall in London, 1858

John Addington Symonds pointedly states in his Memoirs, “I never really enjoy a cathedral without music” (288). This testimonial is supported by his subtle nods of appreciation for music throughout his writing, starting with his earliest recollections and vivid descriptions of church hymns from his childhood. He might have extended this declaration of musical appreciation … Continue reading Masses, Hymns, and Symphonies: Symonds’ Life in Music

Nowhere to Stand: Symonds’ Response to Krafft-Ebing’s Classification of Sexual Inversion

In the opening sentence of chapter 2 of his Memoirs, John Addington Symonds explicitly presents his wish to produce an extended sexual case study of himself. The remainder of chapter 2 is devoted to describing his sexual development before the age of eleven. In addition to calmly reflecting on “what [he] know[s] to be absolutely … Continue reading Nowhere to Stand: Symonds’ Response to Krafft-Ebing’s Classification of Sexual Inversion

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