John Symonds

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Cossington Villa, 2 Richmond Park Road, BS8 3AT

“My grandfather left Oxford and came to live with his daughter, Mrs. James Nash, at Cossington Villa, Clifton. He soon proposed to teach me Latin. I began to learn this language before I was five years old, and can remember declining some Latin nouns to my father on my fifth birthday. It was rather a long walk for a little boy from Berkeley Square to Cossington Villa, which stood in its own garden not far from Buckingham Chapel.

The grammar used for instructing me in Latin was, so far as I can remember, one by Arnold. When we came to the doctrine of the potential and subjunctive moods, I could not comprehend the rules, and refused to learn them by rote. Considering that I was an extremely docile and timid child, this argued an extraordinary amount of intellectual repugnance.

My grandfather declared that he would not teach me any more ; I was incorrigibly stupid or obstinate. I had to write an apologetical letter, which I rememeber doing with mighty solemnity and sense of importance, propped up on cushions at a big high table. On these conditions he took me back as a dull but repentant pupil.”