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the memoirs of john addington symonds Amber Regis describes her editing of the Memoirs of the historian, poet and essayist, whose handwritten autobiography, with all its secrets, has been secured in the Library Safe since 1926

John Addington Symonds in his study at Am Hof, his house in Davos in the Swiss Alps, where he lived during the winter with his wife and their three daughters, from 1867 until his death in 1893. University of Bristol Library, Special Collections (DM377). 12 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE

In the basement of The London Library, there is a bust of Edmund Gosse. This work, by William Goscombe John, was promised to Gosse by many of his friends on the occasion of his seventieth birthday and unveiled a year later, in 1920, at a grand ceremony at the home of Arthur Balfour. Literary critic, biographer and poet, Gosse was elected Vice President of The London Library, his bust’s future home, in 1922. In this capacity he would negotiate one of the Library’s most extraordinary acquisitions. In late 1926 Gosse found himself the joint custodian, with Charles Hagberg Wright (Librarian, 1893–1940), of several boxes filled with letters and manuscripts entrusted to his care by Horatio Forbes Brown, minor poet and historian of Venice, recently deceased. These boxes did not contain Brown’s own papers, but rather were filled with material he had long preserved and protected: the papers of John Addington Symonds (1840–93), including his loose-leaf, handwritten Memoirs. Symonds had been a famous man of letters: a historian of the Renaissance, biographer of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Michelangelo, translator of Benvenuto Cellini and Carlo Gozzi, poet and essayist. On his death he willed his autobiography away from family hands, bequeathing the manuscript to Brown (as his literary executor) with special instructions to ensure its preservation: ‘I want to save it from destruction after my death, and yet to reserve its publication for a period when it will not be injurious to my family. ’ The Memoirs recount Symonds’s experience as a homosexual man living subject to Victorian social mores and legal

The London Library Magazine Issue 35 Spring 2017  
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