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Welcome note

Hello, and welcome to the last diary of James Fitzjames Fraser West, a Birmingham surgeon who died in 1883. If you would like to know more about the diary, its author and the livejournal serialisation, you can find full orientation on the user profile page.

Underneath this note you can view the diary entries (and some final reports of West's funeral) in reverse chronological order. If you would like to read the diary from the beginning, you can find the first entry here. You can then move forward to read subsequent entries in order by clicking on the green 'right' arrow at the top of each entry.

Alternatively, if you would like to explore the journal by theme, you can see a complete list of entry keywords here.

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That's all, folks!

So with West dead and buried, that really does bring us to the end of his story, and the final post in this blog. I'd like to say many thanks to all of you for reading, commenting and just generally participating in the last few months of West's life. And, of course, if you would like to know more about him and his world, let me remind you before we wrap things up about my mother's full-length biography of him: A Victorian Surgeon. A Biography of James Fitzjames Fraser West 1833-83, Birmingham Surgeon, by Geraldine M. Goodman (2007).

It's available via Brewin Books or Amazon, or if you live in Birmingham there are also hard copies available in places like the Botanical Gardens gift shop or the Barber Institute. Just ask if you need any more help finding it!

All best, and thanks again for helping to make this project so worthwhile.


Older with beard

Wednesday 30th May 1883

Birmingham Daily Post and Journal, 30 May, 1883

The funeral of the late Mr. J. F. West, of the Hagley Road, senior honorary surgeon to the Queen's Hospital, took place yesterday afternoon, at Hall Green. A large number of professional gentlemen attended the ceremony to pay a last mark of respect to one who during his residence in Birmingham had been so greatly esteemed. The mourners were the three sons of the deceased, and several intimate friends - viz., Messrs W West, C West, and J West; F. W. Robinson, J. Kershaw, S. Balden, G. Yates, J. W. Daniell, J. C. Onions, E. T. Grimley, T. Webley, and C. Green and W. N. Fisher, the executors. The funeral party left the deceased's house, in the Hagley Road, about a quarter to twelve o'clock, the following also being in the procession:- Mr. W. S. Mann, Dr. Jordan Lloyd, Dr. Sprotson, Dr. Suffield, Mr. J. Leah, Mr. T. Reeves, Mr. W. Miller, and the Rev. J. C. Blissard. A number of private carriages followed, including those of the deceased gentleman, Mr. W. S Mann, Dr. Sprotson, Dr. Suffield, Mr. W. Holliday, Mr. J. C. Onions, Mr. W. Graham, Mr. J. St. S. Wilders, Dr. Thompson, Mr. Richards (Olton), Mr. J. Garner, Mr. J. Williams, Dr. Jolly, and Mr. Hendwicks. The party proceeded down Islington Row, Bath Row, past the Queen's Hospital, and then to the Stratford Road, arriving at Hall Green Church about half-past one o'clock. The service was conducted by the Rev. J. C. Blissard, of St. Augustine's, and the Rev. R. Jones, vicar of Hall Green. The coffin was of polished oak, with brass furniture, and on the breastplate was the inscription - "James Fitzjames West, died May 24, 1883, aged 49." A large number of beautiful wreaths were taken by friends, to be placed on the grave. Amongst those present at the internment, in addition to those mentioned above, were Dr. Carter and Mr. Priestly Smith, representing the Medical Committee of the Queen's Hospital; Dr. Jolly, Dr. Sanders, Dr. Palmer (Solihull), Dr. Underhill, Dr. Bradford, Dr. Edington, Messrs. J. S. Gamgee, F. Nelson, J. St. S. Wilders, T. Webber, T. H. Smith, T. Read, H. Matchett, J. Hort Player. [sic] Rosten, H. Richards, M. Jones, J. Garner, several students from the Queen's Hospital, Queen's College and General Hospital &c. The funeral arrangements were carried out by Messrs. Holliday, Son, and Co., of Warwick House, New Street.

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Older with beard

Friday 25th May 1883

Birmingham Daily Post and Journal, May 25, 1883

We regret to announce the death of Mr. James Fitzjames West, senior surgeon of the Queen's Hospital, Birmingham. Mr. West died early yesterday morning, at his residence in the Hagley Road, Edgbaston, after an illness of some duration, though until within a recent period a fatal termination was not anticipated. Some time ago Mr. West was out of health, and hoped by a visit to Italy to recruit his condition. The hope was, however, disappointed; and on his return an attack of rheumatic fever set in, attended towards the close by some of the complications which render that disease so formidable. When the danger became serious, his medical attendants – Dr. Sawyer, Dr. Suffield, and Mr. Mann – called in Sir William Jenner; but the case was hopeless, and at the time we have mentioned Mr. West expired, to the great grief of his family, and the sorrow of a large number of personal and professional friends.

Mr. West was a comparatively young man. He was born in London in 1833, and received his medical education at St. Thomas’s Hospital, where he proved himself a most accomplished student, and left behind him such a reputation that at a later period of his life it became probable he would be elected one of the honorary medical staff of the charity. In 1854 he qualified as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons (London), and a licentiate of the Apothecaries’ Company; and in 1867 he became Fellow of the College of Surgeons, by examination. Directly after taking his degree, Mr. West removed to Birmingham, as house surgeon to the Queen's Hospital, a position which he occupied for three years; and he was then elected, at the same time as Mr. Gamgee, one of the honorary surgeons of the hospital, and a clinical teacher at Queen’s College.

Some of our older readers will remember the sharp contest which occurred in the professorial body and the College Council in reference to those appointments, which involved questions of legal right between the Council (which then, under the charter, elected the surgeons of the hospital) and the professors to whose approval candidates had to be submitted before election. For the time the conflict which then took place threatened to disturb the working of the hospital; but, as the event proved, the charity obtained the services of two excellent officers instead of one; and all personal difficulty was obviated by the courtesy with which Mr. Gamgee voluntarily ceded to his colleague the position of senior surgeon. From that period until his death Mr. West continued to discharge his duties at the Queen's Hospital, to which he gave most valuable service for twenty-five years; and he was also active in connection with the Queen’s College, where he held the chair of anatomy.

It is hardly within our province to speak of Mr. West in his professional capacity but we may observe that he was regarded as peculiarly skilful in operative surgery; and he was held in high esteem as a teacher of anatomy. He continued, indeed - as all medical men should be - a student to the last. Even in his periodical Continental journeys, he regularly visited the hospitals and medical schools of the great capitals, and brought back with him copious notes, of which his clinical class and his colleagues freely received the benefit. To the literature of his profession Mr. West made several contributions of interest, in the form of papers on practical surgery; and in the same direction he rendered solid service by a translation of Langenbeck’s work on “Gun-shot wounds of the Hip Joint,” a task which he executed much to the satisfaction of that eminent surgeon. In the medical societies of the town and district, Mr. West took a strong and active interest. He was a member and had been president of the Midland Medical Society, a director of the Medical Benevolent Society and a vice-president of the Medical Institute.

Outside the range of his profession Mr. West had marked literary taste and sympathies, especially in regard to dramatic and particularly Shakespearean criticism. He was, for example, a leading member of the Birmingham Shakespeare Dramatic Club, and in the year of his presidency of it he contributed a very interesting paper, afterwards published, on “Shakespeare from a surgeon’s point of view”. Personally, as we have already said, Mr. West was much esteemed by a large number of friends, who will sincerely lament his untimely death, and will feel that in many respects it has created a void which will not be easily filled.

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Wednesday 18th April 1883

As of this date, there were no further entries in James West’s diary. He now entered his final illness (rheumatic fever), which ended with his death on May 24th, 1883. I will round off his story in May by posting notices in this journal on the days of his death and funeral, along with an obituary and an account of his funeral which were published in the Birmingham Daily Post on the days when they appeared in the newspaper. Thank you for reading this far, and I hope you enjoyed his entries.

All best, PJG.

Writing at desk

Tuesday 17th April 1883

Dined at Liberal Club with Mr Sutton of the Lancash[ire] Ass[urance] Co[mpany].
Paid into B. Bk Co}Perry and Co£7/10
the following}Cape of Good Hope£11/5
coupons}New Zealand£6/5  
Miss Lindsay called on me. Received letters from Fred Robinson1 and J Kershaw declining to my regret invitation to the Shakespeare festival.

1. Presumably a response to the letter West says he sent him from Rome on 1st April, 1883.

The original text of this entry can be seen here.

Writing at desk

Monday 16th April 1883

Went round Hosp[ital] and then had a consultation with Mr. G Yates re case of haemorrhoids. We dined at the Hen and Chickens. In ev[eni]ng played 3 games of Billiards with councillor Jas Baldwin. He gave me 40- in 100 and strange to say I beat him. Wrote to Dr Miller. At home in ev[eni]ng reading and writing.

The original text of this entry can be seen here.