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James Fitzjames Fraser West

The diary of a Victorian Surgeon

Like the Victorians?
Like medical history?
Like travel writing?
Like pepysdiary?

Then you've come to the right place!

This journal was set up to serialise the last diary of James Fitzjames Fraser West - a Birmingham hospital surgeon with a large medical practice, who died in 1883. By no means the diary of an ailing man, it reveals instead a vivid and forceful character with a wry sense of humour. West's daily entries give a fascinating insight into the life of a Victorian professional, and even include an account of a month's excursion through France and Italy which he undertook with his wife in March-April 1883, courtesy of Thomas Cook. Some typical entries run as follows:
"Friday February 9th. Came back by the 9 train with Mr Farndale and Mr Colls. Had to go to Chester Rd. to see Frank Holliday who had ricked his back by lifting his bedstead with his wife in it! Too much conjugal affection! Spent evening at Branson's and played rubber with him, Balden and Haynes when I had bad luck and lost 27/6"
"Saturday April 14th. 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."
West's life is unusually well-documented, since after his death his family kept not only his final diary, but a whole dossier of other personal documents and possessions, which were passed down to their descendants and now rest in the possession of Mrs. Geraldine Goodman, West's step-great-granddaughter. On the basis of these documents, and extensive research into West's social and professional background, Mrs. Goodman has recently completed a biography of this fascinating medical man: A Victorian Surgeon. A Biography of James Fitzjames Fraser West 1833-83, Birmingham Surgeon.

The serialisation of the diary was undertaken to celebrate the launch of the book. It began in January 2008, and continued until April 17th, when the diary ceased as a result of West's final illness. The serialisation is now complete, so no further entries are being posted in this blog. However, if you would like to read the diary in sequence for yourself, you can find the first entry here. You can then move forward to read each subsequent entry in order by clicking on the green 'right' arrow at the top of the entry.

You can also learn more about James West and his family, friends and colleagues via the following background information entries. These are linked as appropriate from the individual diary entries, and each one contains pictures (where possible) of the people and places mentioned by West, with brief information about them:
19th century, 19th century history, acock's green, alfred baker, alfred carter, birmingham, charles green, charles suffield, charles warden, church of the ascension, church of the redeemer, churches, coal mining, david lloyd owen, diaries, edgbaston, edward mackey, edward malins, europe, european travel, france, fred robinson, george jordan lloyd, george yates, gilbert barling, italy, james baldwin, james fitzjames fraser west, james fraser west, james russell, james sawyer, john jaffray, john kershaw, joseph priestley smith, joseph sampson gamgee, katarina green, king edward five ways, lizzie lorraine, llandudno, london, madame norman-neruda, medical history, medical school, medics, naples, nineteenth century, oliver pemberton, paris, percy harrison, peter paul mackey, pictures, pompeii, queen's college, queen's hospital, queen's hospital birmingham, reverend blissard, reverend plattern, robert jolly, rome, ross jordan, shakespeare, solihull, st augustine's, st thomas' medical school, surgery, surgical techniques, thomas bartleet, thomas chavasse, thomas cook, thomas heslop, thomas mills, travel, victorian birmingham, victorian doctors, victorian history, victorian hospitals, victorian medicine, victorian surgeons, victorians, walter clarke, walter fisher, william holliday, william sprotson, yorkshire