Nott, John (DNB00)


NOTT, JOHN, M.D. (1751–1825), physician and classical scholar, born at Worcester on 24 Dec. 1751, was son of Samuel Nott. The latter was of German origin, held an appointment in George III's household, and was much liked by the king. John studied surgery in Birmingham, under the instruction of Edmund Hector, the schoolfellow and lifelong friend of Dr. Johnson; in London under Sir Cæsar Hawkins, with whose family he was connected; and at Paris. About 1775 he went to the Continent with an invalid gentleman, and stayed there for two years, when he returned to London. In 1783 he travelled to China, as surgeon in an East India vessel, and during his absence of three years learnt the Persian language. In a note to his edition of Decker's ‘Gulls Hornbook’ he speaks of having witnessed Chinese plays in the streets of Canton (p. 56, n. 2). His love of travel was not yet exhausted, for soon after returning to England he accompanied his brother and his family on a journey abroad for their health, and did not return until 1788. Nott was still without a degree in medicine, and, on the advice of Dr. Warren, he became an extra-licentiate of the College of Physicians in London on 8 Oct. 1789. On the title-page of his treatise on the ‘Waters of Pisa’ he is described as M.D., but where he took that degree is unknown. On the recommendation of Dr. Warren he attended the Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Duncannon, as their physician, to the Continent, and continued in that position until 1793. He settled at length at the Hot Wells, Bristol, ‘the place of his predilection,’ and, in spite of frequent offers of a better position, remained there for the rest of his days. For the last eight years of his life Nott suffered from hemiplegia, and was confined to his house; but his mental faculties were unimpaired, and he was always engrossed in literature. He died in a boarding-house, Dowry Square, Clifton, Bristol, on 23 July 1825, and was buried in the old burial-ground at Clifton. He was well versed in medical science and in classical literature, and was celebrated for his conversational skill.

Nott was the author of: 1. ‘Alonzo; or the Youthful Solitaire: a tale’ (anon.), 1772. 2. ‘Leonora; an Elegy on the Death of a Young Lady’ (anon.), 1775. She was the object of his youthful attachment. 3. ‘Kisses: being an English Translation in Verse of the Basia of Joannes Secundus Nicolaius, with Latin Text and an Essay on his Life,’ 1775. 4. ‘Sonnets and Odes of Petrarch, translated’ (anon.), 1777; reprinted in January 1808, as by the translator of Catullus. 5. ‘Poems, consisting of Original Pieces and Translations,’ 1780. 6. ‘Heroic Epistle in Verse, from Vestris in London to Mademoiselle Heinel in France’ (anon.), 1781. 7. ‘Propertii Monobiblos, or that Book of Propertius called Cythnia, translated into English verse,’ 1782. 8. ‘Select Odes from Hafiz, translated into English verse,’ 1787. 9. ‘Chemical Dissertation on the Thermal Water of Pisa, and on the neighbouring Spring of Asciano, with Analytical Papers [by Henri Struve] on the Sulphureous Water of Yverdun,’ 1793. This was the substance of an Italian treatise by Giorgio Santi, professor of chemistry in Pisa University. Nott had passed two winters in that city. 10. ‘Of the Hot-Well Waters near Bristol,’ 1793. 11. ‘A Posologic Companion to the London Pharmacopœia,’ 1793; 3rd ed. 1811. 12. ‘The Poems of Caius Valerius Catullus in English Verse, with the Latin text versified and classical notes,’ 1794, 2 vols. 8vo. 13. ‘Belinda; or the Kisses of Bonefonius of Auvergne, with Latin text,’ 1797. 14. ‘The Nature of Things. The First Book of Lucretius, with Latin text,’ 1799. 15. ‘Odes of Horace, with Latin text,’ 1803, 2 vols. 16. ‘Sappho, after a Greek Romance’ (anon.), 1803. 17. ‘On the Influenza at Bristol in the Spring of 1803,’ 1803. 18. ‘Select Poems from the Hesperides of Herrick, with occasional remarks by J. N.’ [1810]. This was criticised by Barron Field in the ‘Quarterly Review’ for 1810. 19. ‘Songs and Sonnets of Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, Sir Thomas Wyatt, and others’ [1812]. A fire at the printer's destroyed nearly the whole impression, and the work, which included only the text of the poems, and is to be distinguished from the exhaustive edition of Surrey and Wyatt by Nott's nephew, was not published. In two copies at the British Museum there are copious manuscript notes by Nott. 20. ‘The Gulls Hornbook, by T. Decker, with notes of illustration by J. N.,’ 1812. Nott contributed to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ and other journals, both literary and medical. At the time of his death he had finished a complete translation of Petrarch, with notes, memoir, and essay on his genius; and he contemplated a poetic version of Silius Italicus. His nephew, executor and heir, was the Rev. George Frederick Nott [q. v.]

Nott's verse renderings of the poems of Catullus, Propertius, and of the ‘Basia of Joannes Secundus Nicolaius,’ are reprinted in Bohn's Classical Library.

Nott seems to have aided John Mathew Gutch [q. v.] in preparing a reprint of Wither's works. The undertaking was not completed, but a few imperfect copies were issued by Gutch in 1820, in 3 vols. (cf. proof-sheets of the reprint of the Juvenilia in Brit. Mus.) Charles Lamb possessed a copy of these ‘Selections from the Lyric and Satiric Poems of George Wither,’ interleaved with manuscript notes by Nott. The notes irritated Lamb, who annotated them in turn with such comments as ‘Thou damned fool!’ ‘Why not, Nott?’ ‘Obscure? to you, to others Not,’ and dismisses the ‘unhappy doctor’ with this final note, ‘O eloquent in abuse! Niggard where thou shouldst praise, Most Negative Nott.’ Mr. Swinburne, into whose hands came this doubly annotated volume, details Lamb's strictures upon Nott with gusto in a paper entitled ‘Charles Lamb and George Wither’ in the ‘Nineteenth Century’ (January 1885). He characterises Nott, whose chief fault seems to have been a superfluity of comment, as ‘sciolist and pedant.’

[Gent. Mag. 1825, pt. ii. pp. 565–6 (from Bristol Journal); Notes and Queries, 1st ser. x. 27, 5th ser. x. 204, 6th ser. x. 267; Munk's Coll. of Phys. 2nd ed. ii. 397–8; Bristol Gazette, 28 July 1825.]

W. P. C.