The Fifth Annual John Addington Symonds Celebration
Dr Amber Regis
The Old Council Chamber, Wills Memorial Building, Bristol
This event is our annual celebration of John Addington Symonds, Bristol-based writer, art historian, and pioneer of homosexual rights. Please register on the Eventbrite page for tickets. Free to attend, refreshments provided.
Dr Amber Regis will be speaking on “John Addington Symonds: from Bristol via Davos to the archive and 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 The finished manuscript could not be published in his lifetime: even if Symonds had found a printer willing to set the type, booksellers would have risked prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act.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.
Dr 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.
The event is organised by OutStoriesBristol.