Sunday, February 07, 2010

John Addington Symonds's Oxford Notes

This slightly tatty-looking copy of Mark Pattison's Memoirs (Macmillan, London, 1885) hides a wonderful secret inside the front cover. On the front pastedown, there is the bookplates of the father of all queer letters, John Addington-Symonds.
Pattison was the Rector of Lincoln College in Oxford and these are quintessentially Oxford memoirs. They describe in great detail Pattison's religious life and, in particular his relationships with Pusey and Newman at the intense height of the tractarian movement. The Memoir is rather sad in tone and extremely introspective but what is particularlly nice in this copy is that Symonds has made his own marginal notes - sometimes at length. Sometimes they are comments about Hegel and german philosophy, more often they are little remarks about people or practices which Pattison mentions that Symonds was also familiar with. I haven't read them all yet but tantalisingly, Symonds's comment alongside a mention of his old headmaster, Vaughan, has been rubbed out. I'm just hoping that in the right light I might be able to get a few words of it but haven't managed yet. Vaughan lost his job because a young Symonds discovered his relationship with another pupil and brought the matter to his father's attention. It would be interesting therefore to read what the adult Symonds wrote as a note alongside Vaughan's name.


Anonymous said...

I have Symonds's copy of Swinburne's Essays & Studies with the same bookplate and similar pencil annotations to a chapter on John Ford. Haven't got around to studying it in detail but I liked the idea of being able to peer over the shoulder at Symonds reading Swinburne.

Self-effacing ghost said...

What a treasure of a book.

Are you familiar with V H H Green's unpromisingly titled volume, Oxford Common Room (Edward Arnold, 1957) - a partial history of Lincoln College SCR, with Pattison as the major character? I found it absorbing.

Raymond Mortimer wrote that Pattison's Memoirs "as a self-portrait of an English intellectual are surpassed only by Gibbon's Autobiography, and Newman's Apologia."

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