John Addington Symonds

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John Addington Symonds by Eveleen Tennant

John Addington Symonds (1840-1892) was a British scholar, born on 5 October 1840 in Clifton. He was educated in Harrow and then in Balliol and Magdalen Colleges at Oxford. While at school, he discovered that the Harrow headmaster Charles Vaughan was having an affair with one of the boys and eventually blackmailed him to resign.

Apart from this notorious incident, however, Symonds became aware of his own homosexuality while reading Plato's Symposium and Phaedrus. Although married with four children, Symonds lived most of his life in Davos, Switzerland and Venice where he became sexually promiscuous with several young men. Yet while he preferred mature young men to boys, he had several infatuations and relationships with adolescents, including cathedral choristers Alfred Brooke and fifteen-year-old Willie Dyer.

In several of his works Symonds defended the love of boys, as in A Problem in Greek Ethics (1873, printed 1883) and Studies of the Greek Poets (1873). The latter, a series of lectures for Sixth Form boys at Clifton College, was originally devised to get close to one boy named Norman Moore, whom Symonds first met in 1868 and eventually had an affair with.

Symonds died of tuberculosis at Rome, in 1892.

List of works

  • The Renaissance. An Essay (1863)
  • Miscellanies by John Addington Symonds, M.D.,: Selected and Edited with an Introductory Memoir, by His Son (1871)
  • Introduction to the Study of Dante (1872)
  • Renaissance in Italy, 7 vol. (1875–86)
  • Shelley (1878)
  • Animi Figura (1882)
  • A Problem in Greek Ethics (1883)
  • "Shakespeare's Predecessors in the English Drama" (1883)
  • Wine, Women, and Song. Medieval Latin Students' Songs (1884) English translations/paraphrases. [1]
  • Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini (1887) An English translation.
  • A Problem in Modern Ethics (1891)
  • Our Life in the Swiss Highlands (1891)
  • In the Key of Blue (1893)
  • Walt Whitman. A Study (1893)


See also

External links