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James Fitzjames Fraser West
The diary of a Victorian Surgeon
24th-May-2010 11:03 pm - Welcome note
Diary cover
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.

30th-May-2008 01:20 pm - That's all, folks!
Biography cover
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.


30th-May-2008 01:15 pm - Wednesday 30th May 1883
Older with beard
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.

A near-contemporary map showing the route taken by West's funeral cortègeCollapse )

Photographs of the West family grave and the Church of the Ascension todayCollapse )

29th-May-2008 10:19 am - Tuesday 29th May 1883
Older with beard
On this day in 1883, James Fitzjames Fraser West was buried at the Church of the Ascension, Hall Green, Birmingham.

On the following day, an account of the funeral was published in the Birmingham Post, and I will post that up here tomorrow, along with pictures showing the route taken by the funeral cortège, and West's grave today.

25th-May-2008 10:42 pm - Friday 25th May 1883
Older with beard
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.

24th-May-2008 11:29 am - Thursday 24th May 1883
Older with beard
Exactly 125 years ago on this day, James Fitzjames Fraser West died from complications arising out of rheumatic fever.

An obituary was published on the following day in the Birmingham Post, and I will post that up here tomorrow.

18th-Apr-2008 10:41 pm - Wednesday 18th April 1883
Diary cover
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.

17th-Apr-2008 10:12 pm - Tuesday 17th April 1883
Writing at desk
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.

16th-Apr-2008 10:28 pm - Monday 16th April 1883
Writing at desk
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.

15th-Apr-2008 09:43 pm - Sunday 15th April 1883
Writing at desk
Had a long walk round Warley with Walter in the m[orni]ng. Mr Walter Myers whom we met in San Remo called and I went to his brother George's to smoke a cigar after dinner. Dr Suffield and his daughter spent the ev[eni]ng with us.

The original text of this entry can be seen here.

14th-Apr-2008 09:34 pm - Saturday 14th April 1883
Writing at desk
Mr Richards sent me Rosminians philosophy with a very nice letter thanking me for my trifling present. Spent afternoon at Chas Green's playing lawn tennis. He and his wife have both turned abstainers and it did not seem to have improved his temper. Consultation with G Yates re Mrs Cooke.

13th-Apr-2008 09:06 pm - Friday 13th April 1883
Writing at desk
Drove to Solihull calling at Miss Dickins, Mrs Onions and Mr Richards. The latter seemed pleased with the Rosary blessed by the Pope wh. I bought him and which he said was just the thing he wanted.

12th-Apr-2008 10:31 pm - Thursday 12th April 1883
Writing at desk
Went round hospital with Jordan Lloyd and a few students and told them some of my Italian experiences. Called on Mrs Fisher and got a very cool reception, she having called on Mr T Bartleet.

11th-Apr-2008 10:04 pm - Wednesday 11th April 1883
Writing at desk
Ma and Fanny went home.1 Mrs Green spent the evening with us and I gave her some photos of pictures we had bought, the red stockings from Sorrento and a vol. of Tennyson for Charles wh. we thought a nice little present. I doubt however if one or other of our gifts was much appreciated. Mary has given notice to leave.

1. Presumably they had been staying at the Wests’ house to look after their children while they were away.

10th-Apr-2008 10:33 pm - Tuesday 10th April 1883
Writing at desk
Lunched at Warwick House. Mr Heath severe on me for going away especially as Charlie had been so bad that Lloyd Owen had thought it right to extirpate the eye on wh. Chessire1 had operated for cataract. One cannot please everyone, and selfishness seems the prevailing spirit that rules the world, of Bham at any rate. I got grumbled at today in every direction.

1. Edwin Chessire 1819-1903.

Note: Now that he has returned to Birmingham, West at this point in the diary stops using headings in his entries to indicate where he is writing from. The location tags are therefore once again being added by me for convenience. PJG.

9th-Apr-2008 10:42 pm - Monday 9th April 1883
Writing at desk
Mr Leah met me at the station and I had a settlement with him receiving [?] £6 and giving him ten guineas with wh. he seemed quite satisfied. Called on J Grimley and saw other patients and all seemed glad to see me. All had colds and ma had been ill while we were away but is now better.

8th-Apr-2008 10:52 pm - Sunday 8th April 1883
Writing at desk
Went to the English church to morning service. Called on Dr Miller but he and his family were in the country. Lunched at Cafe Valois in Palais Royal and then took steam boat to Suresnes and on landing saw one of the Races of Longchamps. It was a bright cold day. Came back to Paris by train by way of Courbevoie and the avenue Neuilly.1 Dined at Duval's very well for 4 f. and then went to Grand Hotel and packed up and drove off to Gare du Nord in time to catch the express train for London. Arrived at Calais at 1.30 [a.m.] and at Dover at 4 [a.m.]. The journey across was fine and very few were ill. Train got us to London at 6 [a.m.]and we had breakfast at Charing Cross Station. Then went to see marks of dynamite explosion at Local Government Board Offices and then to Westminster Abbey where early morning service was being read to the Westminster boys who most of them came trooping in very late. Got to Euston at 9.30 [a.m.] and down to B'ham at 12.20 [p.m.]. Very glad once there to get back to Bh. [Birmingham]

1. Now Avenue Charles de Gaulle.

7th-Apr-2008 09:09 pm - Saturday 7th April 1883
Writing at desk
Spent the entire morning with Prof. Ollier at the Hotel Dieu and saw a great deal of good surgery, although in a dirty overcrowded Hospital where good results after operations were unknown, especially resections, until Listerism was introduced but now the operations are said to do well. 6 resections of the wrist and many other joint resections were doing well. Prof. O was anxious for us to dine with him and came and pressed Tadie but she could not be prevailed on so we left for Paris at 2.33. We did not get to Paris till nearly 12 - a long tedious journey broken only by a short stay at Tonnerre for dinner. On arriving at Paris cabs were at a premium but at last I laid hold of one and drove off to the Grand Hotel where we got a bed on the fourth floor at 12 f. a day, making 17/- a day with candles and service - very tired with our long journey.

The original text of this entry can be seen here.

6th-Apr-2008 09:53 pm - Friday 6th April 1883
Writing at desk
Rose at 7 and went to Bath establishment and enjoyed for 1/2 hour a bathe in large piscina having only one fellow-bather so that it was comfortable. Water at 34º Cent. and not too sulphurous. After breakfast took Tadie out to baths and then to see the Casino wh. is being much enlarged and a theatre built. Then on towards the Grand Port in hope of seeing the lake. However as we had to leave for Lyons at 11.48 we could not reach it, but we had a fine view of Lake Bourget from the Rail wh. skirts it all the way to Culoz. The day was fine and the blue lake with the white crested mountains looked so beautiful that we turned our backs on them with regret. Staid an hour at Amberieu and came on to Lyons at 5 - Grand Hotel de Lyon just opposite Bourse. 3rd floor room only 4 f[rancs] 50 and well furnished. Before dinner walked along banks of Rhone wh. there is a fine broad rapid river with embankment on either side and bought some collars: after dinner took cab to M Ollier's, 3 Boul[evard] de la Charité, but he was out so we strolled about and looked in at the shops wh. are handsome but night was cold so we returned to Hotel at 9.30.

The original text of this entry can be seen here.

5th-Apr-2008 09:53 pm - Thursday 5th April 1883
Writing at desk
At 8 Chev. Bosio whom I met at Rome called for me at H Centrale and took me to the Hospital of St John which is very large but miserably arranged and very insanitary. Prof Movaro [?] showed me round with the greatest courtesy and after gave me some of his works as did also Prof Bozzolo the Prof of Medicine. The med. wards cleaner and more wholesome than the surgical and less crowded. The dissecting room and anatomical department are at back of hospital, but in close proximity to the wards. The benefit of Lister's treatment is fully shown here for whereas without it the deaths after operation were very great now they are small and they have no erysipelas. Mr Bosio and the Prof Movaro took me also to see University where Physiology is well taught. All appliances of recent date and approved by Virchow. Walked round town admiring its broad streets and squares with many monuments and then left at 1 for Lyons but got so tired on way that we determined to stop for the night at Aix les Bains. The route through Mount Cenis is very interesting - the actual passage of the tunnel taking 28 minutes. Gas was lit in carriages and the air was purer than in an ordinary tunnel: the descent is gradual and through some beautiful scenery. We had for fellow travellers the French Vice Consul at Turin and his little daughter at 3 who was very amusing and good. We staid after hour at Modane surrounded by mountains wh. even now are covered with snow, but unfortunately did not dine, so that we were exhausted by 9 when we arrived at Aix. Put up at H. de l'Europe and had a good room on 1st floor at 8 fr. Walked round town wh. looked deserted and empty, calling on Dr Cazales, who however had not yet come.

The original text of this entry can be seen here.

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