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Two copy letters from James Williams to Mary Williams regarding Hunter’s death

Two letters from James Williams to his sister Mary in Worcester.

In the first letter, James Williams describes his daily work assisting John Hunter with preparations, and his attendance of Matthew Baillie’s lectures on anatomy and Everard Home’s lectures on surgery and physiology. He describes living with Hunter [at 13 Castle Square, backing onto Hunter’s Leicester Square residence], where his room is right below the ‘dissecting room with half a dozen dead bodies in it’, and how ‘there is a dead carcass just at this moment rumbling up the stairs and the Resurrection Men swearing most terribly’. He describes Hunter as a ‘very good kind of man when you have been used to him tho he has some oddities’. He states that the fee to attend dissections is five guineas, ‘besides buying bodies’, generally shared by two students and costing ‘about a guinea’. He asks for Mary’s watch as he does not have one himself, and it is as safe in London as it is in Worcester, promises to pay George back and asks for his books to be forwarded to him.

The second letter appears to have been written on the day of Hunter’s death. Williams states that Hunter had had ‘for these several years a very irregular spasmodic affection at his heart’. Williams describes having had breakfast with Hunter in the morning, after which Hunter left to see his patients and then to St George’s Hospital, where ‘the surgeons of this charity have been at variance with him … respecting some of the pupils’. Following ‘several words with the surgeons which brought on his complaint’, he died at the hospital. Williams says that Mrs Hunter [Anne Hunter] and their children were out of town. He says that ‘the other two pupils’ are leaving London for a while, and with no lectures he also plans ‘an excursion somewhere or other’.

These letters are transcripts and photocopies by George Edwards in 1968 from letters held by a descendant of James and Mary Williams (Edwards, George. 1968. John Hunter’s last pupil. Annals of The Royal College of Surgeons of England 42 (1):68-70).

Papers relating to John Hunter

The collection relates to Hunter’s dispute with St George’s Hospital and the division of pupils’ fees among the surgeons, which Hunter perceived as unfair, arguing he brought in more pupils than the other surgeons. The dispute culminated in a meeting in Oct 1793 at the hospital, during which Hunter suffered a heart attack and died.

In addition to the papers relating to the dispute, there are some additional notes, some collected by Charles Hawkins and some by George Edwards. These include copies of two letters from John Hunter’s pupil James Williams to his sister, describing working with Hunter, dissections and the work of the so-called ‘Resurrection Men’, and describing Hunter’s death. These were acquired apparently from a descendant of Williams by Edwards; the location of the original letters is unknown.

Student newsletters

Newsletters created by medical students for medical students.

The collection includes the following issues:
1983: 1
1985: 16, 20
1986: [unnumbered], 25, 28
1987: 30
1988: 34-36, 38, 40-41
1989: 42, 44
1990: 45-49
1991: 50-54
1992: 57-59
1993: 61-65, 67-74
1994: 79-80, 82
1997: 89-92, Election special
1999: 96, 101

SGUL Year Book

Yearbook for the class of 2013 which contains profiles and photographs of students at St George's, and group photos from their time at the University.

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