Sep 092018

Amber Regis:  “John Addington Symonds: from Bristol via Davos to the archive and library”

Middle-aged man with facial hair and wearing tweed jacket and fur hat sitting at an ornate desk with book-lined shelves behind.

J A Symonds in his study at Am Hof. Copyright: University of Bristol Special Collections Library.

This lecture will explore the fascinating afterlife of John Addington Symonds’s Memoirs (c.1899-91) — his account of life as a homosexual man in Victorian Britain and Europe, where experience and action were subject to legal repression and the constraints of social custom and prejudice.

In writing his autobiography, Symonds forged a language through which to articulate his desires and sense of self, drawing upon ancient Greek history and literature, the European Renaissance, and the poetry of Walt Whitman. The finished manuscript could not be published in his lifetime; even if Symonds had found a printer willing to set the type, booksellers would have risked prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act. So his manuscript was saved for posterity, passing through the hands of successive custodians and libraries.

The extraordinary story of the Memoirs — their composition and survival — takes us from the streets of Bristol to the mountain tops of Davos, and into the locked safes and strong rooms of the London Library and Bristol University Special Collections.

* * * * *Head of young women with black hair and wearing black spectacles and black and white striped blouse

Amber Regis is Senior Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of Sheffield. She is the editor of The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds: A Critical Edition (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) and her work upon Symonds’s final essay collection, In the Key of Blue (1893), was recently the subject of a collaboration with OutAloud, Sheffield’s LGBT community choir, performed at the 2018 Festival of the Mind.

Saturday 13th October 2018, 2:30pm to 5pm

The Old Council Chamber, Wills Memorial Building, Queens Road, Bristol, BS8 1RJ

The talk will be preceded by the Annual General Meeting of OutStories Bristol (very brief!).

Everyone is welcome to both the AGM and talk. Admission and refreshments are free but a small donation towards the running costs of OutStories Bristol would be appreciated. Please book on Eventbrite so we know numbers.

The Old Council Chamber is on the first floor of the Wills Memorial Building – go up the main stairs and turn right.

Disabled parking is on the left side of the building with a lift to the first floor.

This is the Fifth Annual John Addington Symonds Celebration event in collaboration with the University of Bristol’s Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition (IGRCT). Our thanks to them for sponsoring this event.

Find out more about the IGRCT on their website; you can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.


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