George Calvert Holland 1801 – 1865

George Calvert Holland 1801 – 1865 Lecturer on Physiology at Sheffield Medical Institution in 1831, Physician Extraordinary to The Sheffield General Infirmary, formerly President of the Huntarian and Royal Physical Societies Edinburgh, and Bachelor of Letters of the University of Paris in 1843, George Calvert Holland became a homeopath in 1847.

Holland was an influential author and his publications are mentioned frequently in other journals and publications, and he was a very successful orthodox physician, a friend of John James Audubon and Richard Furness, and physician to Joanna Baillie in 1834.

George Calvert Holland resigned his orthodox posts in 1843 and he was declared bankrupt in 1847 when his bank directorships crashed. Holland was a member of the Yorkshire Geological Society in 1849.

In 1847 George Calvert Holland was contributing to homeopathic journals, and he was a colleague and friend of Frederick Hervey Foster Quin and in 1849 his name is listed in The British and Foreign Homeopathic Medical Directory and Record, the British Homeopathic Journal in 1851, and in The British Homeopathic Review in 1859. In 1853, Holland was a member of the Hahnemann Publishing Society.

George Calvert Holland was active in the foundation of the London Homeopathic Hospital, which was established at 32 Golden Square in 1851. He was a was a colleague of Frederick Hervey Foster Quin, the first President of the British Homeopathic Society, and Marmaduke Blake Sampson, the Chairman of the British Homeopathic Association, and many other homeopaths.

In 1858, F A Hartmann and  George Calvert Holland were swept up in a scandal when a patient died in Norwich, from a rare condition and a missed diagnosis, an anomalous strangulated hernia, complicated by the intransigence of the allopathic surgeons who refused to consult a patient who was being attended by a homeopath. Compare the account given of this incident in the allopathic press (Anon, The Medical Times and Gazette, Volume 2, (J. & A. Churchill, 1858). Page 423) and in the homeopathic press (John James Drysdale, Robert Ellis Dudgeon, Richard Hughes, John Rutherfurd Russell (Eds.), The British Journal of Homoeopathy, Volume 17, (Groombridge & Sons, 5 Paternoster Row, W H Billing, 19 Castle Street Edinburgh, William Radde, 322 Broadway New York 1859). Pages 161-165)!

George Calvert Holland was also a colleague of William Edward Ayerst, Hugh Cameron, John Chapman, Matthew James Chapman, Edward Charles Chepmell, Paul Francois Curie, William Vallancy Drury, George Napoleon Epps, James Epps, John Epps, James Manby Gully, Edward Hamilton, Richard Hughes, Joseph Kidd, Thomas Robinson Leadam, Victor Massol, J Bell Metcalfe, Samuel Thomas Partridge, Henry Reynolds, John Rutherford Russell, David Wilson, Stephen Yeldham and many others.

George Calvert Holland was born from working people and apprenticed to a hairdresser, but he did not stay there long. His early love of poetry led to his ‘avid’ self education in languages and a role in the local debating society.

At this point, his elder brother placed him under tuition for a Unitarian Ministry, but Holland turned instead to medicine. He went to the University of Edinburgh and then to Paris. As an MD, he practiced in Manchester and began to lecture.

Moving to Sheffield, he began to write and he became a prominent member of Society. Holland became interested in Mesmerism, Phrenology and politics, speaking and writing extensively about the Corn Laws.

By this time, Holland was a wealthy man and a director of the Leeds and West Riding bank and the Sheffield and Retford bank, which unfortunately crashed disastrously, wiping out Holland’s entire fortune. Holland was declared bankrupt in 1847.

He retired to a humble cottage and returned to his writing.

A year later, he was in London and working as a homeopath, and on his return to Sheffield, he became a town councillor, and in 1862, he became an Alderman, but his health was already failing and he died in 1865.

George Calvert Holland was a ‘Major Citizen of Sheffield‘:

Holland was born in Pitsmoor in 1801. There are conflicting reports as to his father’s occupation, Odom says he was a barber whilst Leader claims he was a saw maker. In any event, George Holland like many of his contemporaries had little formal education. He began to study at the age of sixteen and absorbed himself in Latin, French and Italian.

After being impressed by the ability of one of his friends to write verses he started to write himself and rapidly became competent enough to be a regular contributor to the Poets’ Corner of a local journal.

Nonetheless, it was to the medical profession that Holland was to set his sights. He gained a place at Edinburgh to study medicine and in1827 graduated to M.D. with Honours. He began practice in Manchester and then took up another practice in Sheffield where he was reputed to have earned £1400 per anum. For twelve years, Holland was physician to the Royal Infirmary. He resigned that post in 1843.

Like many of his middle class contemporaries, Holland was involved in many different facets of the town’s life. He was active in the Mechanics’ Library and the Mechanics’ Institute. In 1835 he became President of the Sheffield Literary and Philosophical Society, a position which seemed to have been passed around a select and predictable few who were central to the town’s social circle.

At the S.L.P.S. Holland lectured on a variety of medical subjects and amongst his own personal special studies were consumption, the digestion and Grinders’ diseases.

Poetry was not his only literary pursuit.

Of great importance to the study of Sheffield’s history is Holland’s book The Vital Statistics of Sheffield a major study, giving vital information regarding a whole array of different aspects of the town and its people.

He also published the Poetical Works of Richard Furness in 1858 with the fullest biography of the poet available.

However, Holland’s quest to satisfy his intellect was finally his undoing. For during the railway mania of the 1830’s and 1840’s he became so absorbed in the local projects that he almost gave up his medical practices and brought about virtual financial ruin. He took up residence at Wadsley Hall and lived as a gentleman until he was forced out through bankruptcy….

George Calvert Holland did NOT impress Thomas Carlyle:

“As for Holland, no more perfect ass has come across me for a long while: loud, unmelodious, stupid; altogether of a supreme stupidity. Yet he too means at bottom something; and even, in his darkness and insolent platitude, is groping towards a great thing.

“I told you once, we must have industrial barons, of a quite new suitable sort; workers loyally related to their taskmasters,—related in God (as we may well say); not related in Mammon alone! This will be the real aristocracy, in place of the sham one; a thing far from us, alas; but infallibly arriving for us;—infallibly, as I think, unless we are to go to wreck altogether.

“This the poor ass Holland has some feeling of, in a most dim manner; and he brays accordingly: “The Corn Law and the Suffrage are by no means the solution of the matter.”

“It seems also your long eared noisy Dr Holland is still going on with his Millocrat; his brayings too, with your original Letter to Fitzwilliam, which provoked the same, I could like to have in full: but this, as far too post heavy in proportion to my impatience, may wait for an opportunity”.

George Calvert’s Obituary is in The Gentleman’s Magazine in 1865.

George Calvert Holland wrote The Vital Statistics of Sheffield, The Millocrat, An Inquiry Into the Moral, Social and Intellectual Condition of the Industrious Classes, Diseases of the Lungs from Mechanical Causes, The Constitution of the Animal Creation as Expressed in Structural Appendages, An experimental inquiry into the laws which regulate the phenomena of organic and animal life, An inquiry into the principles and practice of medicine, founded on original physiological investigations, The origin and nature of disease, and the physiological action of auxiliary remedies, in connection with homoeopathic treatment, The philosophy of the moving powers of the blood, The physiology of the foetus, liver, and spleen, Practical suggestions for the prevention of consumption, The nature and cure of consumption, indigestion, scrofula, and nervous affections, Cases illustrative of the cure of consumption and indigestion, The Mortality, Sufferings and Diseases of Grinders, The Mortality, Sufferings, and Diseases of Grinders. Part II Pen-Blade Grinders, An Exposition of Corn-law Repealing Fallacies and Inconsistencies, Suggestions Towards Improving the Present System of Corn-laws, Letter to J.R. M’Culloch, Esq. in Answer to His Statements on the Corn Laws, Lecture on the Corn-laws, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Treatment of Cholera, An Analysis of the Address of F.H. Fawkes, Esq., to the Landowners of England, The poetical works of … Richard Furness [ed.] with a sketch of his life, The Philosophy of Animated Nature; Or, The Laws and Action of the Nervous … , Practical Views on Nervous Diseases, An Essay on Education, Founded on Phrenological Principles, A Domestic Practice of Homeopathy, The Speeches at a Public Dinner Given to G. Calvert Holland, The Plagiarisms of Julius Jeffreys, F.R.S., in His Treatise on the Statics of the Human Chest.

Of interest:

An E C Holland of Honiton, Devon is mentioned in the British Homeopathic Journal in 1851.

Henry Kelsall (?-?) Rochdale’s first non conformist Justice of the Peace, proposed an infirmary in Rochdale, with an amendment from Alderman Robinson for a homeopathic ward to be added to the new institution ‘… in recognitition of the strong tradition of this medical practice in the town, because of the increased subscriptions that would accrue as a result, and with people obviously more likely to subscribe to an institution that encompassed their specific medical beliefs… The proposal was seconded by Counsellor Hoyle and a stormy debate ensued in which is became obvious that the orthodox medical profession in the town, as represented by Doctors Elliott, March and Wood, objected, at times quite vitriolically. ‘No connection with quacks’ was one of the phrases used by Dr. Wood, a Medical Officer in the Dispensary, at the prospect of homeopaths practicing in the proposed Infirmary. Nevertheless despite these objections the proposal was carried and a pledge of £3650 [£166,805.00 in today’s money] taken from the various people present…’ However, the course of the proposed homeopathic Rochdale Infirmary became mired in the perennial argument between old and new medicine. In Rochdale, the supporters of homeopathy were primarily non conformists, dissenters and Liberalists, and included John Bright, Benjamin Butterworth, Dr. Cox, Thomas Hahnemann Hayle,  Dr. HollandEdward Miall,  George Morris, J K Cheetham, and Joseph Seed amongst many others. The Homeopathic Infirmary in Rochdale was never  built as a result of all this upset. (From Helen Kelsall, The Development of Voluntary Medical Institutions in Rochdale 1832-1872), Transactions New Series Number 4, (1994, Rochdale Literary and Scientific Society)).

3 thoughts on “George Calvert Holland 1801 – 1865”

  1. You may be interested in some background to one of Holland’s articles “The Plagiarisms of Julius Jeffreys, F.R.S., in His Treatise on the Statics of the Human Chest”, published in 1844.

    The article was published as a result of what Holland considered plagiarism of one of his works, by Jeffreys book “Views upon the Statics of the Human Chest”, which was met with acclaim on its publication in 1843. Julius Jeffreys was also the inventor of the Respirator, a breath-warming mask used at the time by tuberculosis sufferers to relieve coughing.

    Here is an excerpt from the book “Striving for the Comfort Zone: A Perspective on Julius Jeffreys”, which explains the Jeffreys view of the event:

    Not everyone acclaimed the book, however, for soon after publication a vitriolic attack was made on Julius, in a pamphlet entitled “The Plagiarisms of Julius Jeffreys, in his treatise on the statics of the Human Chest”. The author, Dr. George Calvert Holland, claims that Julius stole his ideas and copied his work.

    Some of Holland’s work was in similar fields relating to respiratory afflictions, based on his experiences at hospitals in the industrialised English towns of Manchester and Sheffield. Before 1843, Dr. Holland published one item that appears to have had similar themes to “Statics …”, namely an 1841 pamphlet, “The mortality, sufferings and diseases of Grinders”. Also, at a similar time to Julius’ 1843 publication, Holland published “Diseases of the Lungs from mechanical causes, and inquiries into the condition of the artisans exposed to the inhalation of dust”. However, claims of plagiarism indicate Holland did not fully understand Julius’ work.

    Writing from Notting Hill, London, Julius penned a very interesting and in some ways almost humourous response to Dr. Holland’s attack. This was published in “The Lancet”, under the heading “Mr. Jeffreys’ Reply to a Pamphlet presented to the Public by Doctor Calvert B. Holland, (sic) of Sheffield, entitled, “Plagiarisms of Julius Jeffreys, F.R.S.””. Julius first states that Holland has acted imprudently. He declares that in only one section of ‘Statics’ is there any overlap in their work, and that, while they were in agreement in some areas, they had differed in others. Julius affirmed that he was not aware of Holland’s work prior to ‘Statics’ being published. He ends with the following, which has the heading ‘benediction on Dr. Holland’:

    May he hereafter enjoy that happy frame of mind which will make him slow to suspect any of his fellow-men of a crime, literary or otherwise, which I hope he could feel conscious he would not commit himself. May he merit and enjoy as much of literary reputation as is safe for human infirmity. May he long enjoy as good a provincial practice as from his talents I have no doubt he merits; and when he has occasion to call in the aid of the Respirator, may he be harassed by no mistaken feelings hereafter. Lastly, let him rest assured I sincerely forgive him for the gigantic charge of plagiarism with which he has precipitately endeavoured to brand me; and for the unwise things he has, mistaking his own motives, repeated or originated in relation to my connection with the Respirator.

  2. Hi Andy

    Thanks for your comment!

    Holland was a ‘fiery’ character and this sort of exchange was quite common at the time between professionals. Such background detail is always useful to fill out these fascinating historical characters and their time.

    However, we must be careful not to judge them by modern standards, but by the ethos and timbre of their own time.

    Cheers.
    Sue

  3. My enquiry is about his family and descendants. My grandmother’s maiden name was Holland, her married name being Williams. She had three sons and two daughters, the one son being named Calvert hence the query.

    Family “rumours” abound that a Holland left Sheffield for Italy to manage a steel foundry, married a local girl, returned to UK to Ebbw Vale to manage a steel plant there. I don’t know how many children he had but one of his children, Maude, met and married my grandfather, Rev. Harold Stepney Willams. They had five children Calvert, Bernard(my father), Patrick, Avril and Doreen.

    My uncle having the name Calvert seems too much of a coincidence.

    I appreciate this is not a professional query, but, I couldn’t resist the chance.

    Regards

    Richard Williams

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