Hunt, Thomas (1802-1851) (DNB00)

From Wikisource
 
Jump to: navigation, search

HUNT, THOMAS (1802–1851), inventor of a method of curing stammering, was born in Dorsetshire in 1802, and is stated to have been educated at Winchester. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, with the intention of becoming a minister of the church of England, but the affliction of a fellow-collegian who suffered from stammering is said to have arrested his attention, and he left Cambridge without taking a degree in order to devote himself to the study and cure of defective utterance. He found that the lips, the tongue, the jaws, and the breath were in different cases the offending members. Being satisfied of his ability to cure stammering, he sought wider experience in a provincial tour, and finally in 1827 settled in Regent Street, London. He relied on simple common-sense directions. Each case was studied separately. Sometimes slow and sometimes rapid articulation was recommended to his patients, others were taught to place their tongues in particular positions, and others practised improved means of breathing. He held that not one case in fifty was the consequence of malorganisation, and objected to surgical operations. At an early date, 1828, he was patronised by Sir John Forbes, M.D., F.R.S., who sent him pupils for twenty-four years. When George Pearson, the chief witness in the case respecting the attempt on the life of Queen Victoria made by John Francis on 30 May 1842, was brought into court, he was incapable of giving utterance to his evidence, but after a fortnight's instruction from Hunt he spoke with perfect readiness, a fact certified by Sir Peter Laurie, the sitting magistrate. The ‘Lancet’ of 16 May 1846 made a severe attack on Hunt as an unlicensed practitioner. Hunt ably replied in the ‘Literary Gazette’ of 30 May. His leisure was spent in Dorset, where he cultivated land, and made agricultural improvements and experiments. In 1849 his numerous pupils, belonging to all professions, in commemoration of his twenty-two years' service, subscribed for his bust in marble, which was modelled by Joseph Durham [q. v.], and exhibited in the Royal Academy. He died at Godlingstone, near Swanage, Dorsetshire, on 18 Aug. 1851, leaving his practice to his son James [q. v.] His widow, Mary, died 25 Jan. 1855, aged 49.

[James Hunt's Treatise on Stammering, with Memoir of Thomas Hunt, 1854, pp. 27–69, with portrait; Illustrated London News, 23 Aug. 1851, p. 238; Fraser's Magazine, July 1859, pp. 1–14, by Charles Kingsley.]

G. C. B.