Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Girdlestone, Thomas

GIRDLESTONE, THOMAS, M.D. (1758–1822), translator of Anacreon, born in 1758 at Holt, Norfolk, was entered on the physic line at Leyden 8 May 1787 (Index of Leyden Students, Index Soc. p. 40). Entering the army as a doctor, he served for some time under the command of Colonel Sir Charles Stuart, governor of Minorca, to whose friendship he attributed his success in life. After passing some years with the army in India, he settled in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, where he succeeded Dr. John Aikin [q. v.], and practised with great success for thirty-seven years. Tall, slender, and upright, scrupulously dressed in black, with silk stockings and half-gaiters, a white cravat, an ample shirt frill, powdered head and pigtail, he might be seen daily perambulating the town with his gold-headed cane. In 1803 he was one of the promoters of the public library at Great Yarmouth. He died suddenly on 25 June 1822. By his marriage with the widow of the Rev. John Close, and daughter of Robert Lawton of Ipswich, Suffolk, he had an only son, Charles Stuart Girdlestone, an ardent ornithologist, who formed a large collection of birds, principally shot by his own gun in the neighbourhood of Yarmouth. He died unmarried in 1831, aged 33. Girdlestone possessed a good medical library, which was sold by auction soon after his death. He contributed largely under various signatures to the medical journals of the day, and published with his name (1) ‘Essays on the Hepatitis and Spasmodic Affections in India,’ &c., 8vo, London, 1787; (2) ‘A Case of Diabetes, with an Historical Sketch of that Disease,’ 8vo, Yarmouth, 1799. He had some correspondence with R. Langslow upon apoplexy, which was published by the latter in 1802. In 1805 Girdlestone published an address to the inhabitants of Great Yarmouth strongly urging vaccination. During his residence in Yarmouth he compared the translation of the ‘Odes of Anacreon,’ by D. H. Urquhart, then residing at Hobland Hall, with the original Greek, and in 1803 he published his own translation, after having ‘kept it from the press nearly eleven years.’ Other editions followed in 1804 and 1809. He also wrote a paradoxical essay maintaining that Arthur Lee was the author of ‘Junius,’ entitled ‘Facts tending to prove that General Lee was never absent from this country for any length of time during the years 1767, 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772, and that he was the author of Junius,’ 8vo, London, 1813. The copy in the British Museum contains copious manuscript notes by the author, together with copies of four letters from General Lee to Sir Charles Davers. The ‘Reasons’ had previously appeared without Girdlestone's name, 8vo, London, 1807. He likewise published several views of ancient buildings, including the church of St. Peter in Wolverhampton, Dudley Castle, and the abbeys of Lilleshall, Haughmond, and Buildwas in Shropshire, with short descriptions appended to each.

[Gent. Mag. vol. xcii. pt. i. p. 643; Palmer's Perlustration of Great Yarmouth, i. 179–81, ii. 142, 221, 380; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

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