Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Holland, Henry (1788-1873)

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HOLLAND, Sir HENRY (1788–1873), physician, son of Peter Holland, medical practitioner, was born on 27 Oct. 1788 at Knutsford in Cheshire, where his father practised. His maternal grandmother was a sister of Josiah Wedgwood the potter [q. v.] A cousin was Mrs. Gaskell the novelist. He spent the four years 1799–1803 at Newcastle-on-Tyne, under the tuition of the Rev. W. Turner; a fifth year he spent at Bristol, under the Rev. John Prior Estlin [q. v.] In 1804 he became articled clerk to a Liverpool merchant, with liberty to study at Glasgow University for two sessions. At the end of the second session he obtained a release from business, and entered upon medical study. In his eighteenth year he drew up an official statistical report on the agriculture of Cheshire. He afterwards proceeded to Edinburgh University, but besides pursuing his medical studies there he devoted two winters to studying at Guy's and St. Thomas's Hospitals in London. In 1810 he visited Iceland with Sir George S. Mackenzie, bart., and Dr. Richard Bright [q. v.], and contributed to Mackenzie's ‘Travels in Iceland’ the accounts of the ‘History and Literature, Government, Laws, and Religion of Iceland,’ and of the ‘Diseases of the Icelanders.’ He took the degree of M.D. at Edinburgh in 1811, and spent the following year and a half (1812–13) in European travel. Of his travels in south-east Europe he published an interesting account in 1815. In the summer of 1814 he returned to the continent as medical attendant on the Princess of Wales (afterwards Queen Caroline). In his evidence at the parliamentary inquiry held in 1820 with a view to divorcing her from George IV, Holland testified that the princess's conduct with Bergami was, so far as he had seen, free from impropriety. Returning to London, he became a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in 1816. He soon entered upon fashionable practice in Mount Street, and in his fourth year made an income of 1,200l. He then removed to Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, where he remained during the rest of his life. In 1816 he was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1828 a fellow of the College of Physicians. In a few years he resolved not to let his professional income exceed 5,000l., and to spend all his leisure in study, recreation, and travel. He became one of the best known men in London society, the friend and adviser of almost every man of note. In 1837 he was appointed physician extraordinary to Queen Victoria, in 1840 physician in ordinary to the prince consort, and he declined a baronetcy offered by Lord Melbourne in 1841. He was made physician in ordinary to the queen in 1852, and accepted a baronetcy in 1853. He was for many years president of the Royal Institution. In his later years he retired from practice, but continued to make long tours. His last excursion was to Russia; on his way back he attended the trial of Marshal Bazaine at Versailles on 24 Oct. 1873, returned to London the next day, and died in bed on 27 Oct., the eighty-fifth anniversary of his birth.

As a physician, Holland's work was more fashionable than scientific. The ‘frequent half-hour of genial conversation’ was one of his favourite therapeutic agents. He took no part in the medical societies, and although twice a vice-president of the College of Physicians, declined to be nominated for the presidency. His few scientific writings are easy and clear in style, and always interesting, and he wrote with much care many reviews for the quarterly reviews. His ‘Chapters on Mental Physiology’ show considerable insight into the relation between mind and body. Notwithstanding his wide experience, gathered in long and frequent foreign tours and in intercourse with notable persons, his ‘Recollections’ are not as interesting as might be expected. Their defects are, however, due to his scrupulous regard for the feelings of others. In person, Holland was of middle height and very spare. He married, in 1822, Miss M. E. Caldwell, daughter of James Caldwell of Linley Wood, Staffordshire; she died on 2 Feb. 1830, leaving issue Henry Thurstan Holland, created in 1888 Lord Knutsford; Francis James, canon of Canterbury; and two daughters. In 1834 he married Saba, daughter of the Rev. Sydney Smith, who died on 2 Nov. 1866, and by whom he had three daughters. Saba, lady Holland, inherited much of her father's wit, and wrote a memoir of her father, which was published in two volumes in 1855.

Holland wrote:

  1. ‘Travels in the Ionian Isles, Albania, Thessaly, Macedonia, &c., during 1812 and 1813,’ London, 1815, 4to; 2nd edit., 2 vols., 1819, 8vo.
  2. ‘Medical Notes and Reflections,’ London, 1839; 3rd edit., 1855.
  3. ‘Chapters on Mental Physiology,’ London, 1852; founded chiefly on chapters in No. 2; 2nd edit., enlarged, 1858.
  4. ‘Essays on Scientific and other subjects contributed to the “Edinburgh” and “Quarterly” Reviews, London, 1862; German translation by B. Althaus, Hamburg, 1864.
  5. ‘Recollections of Past Life,’ London, 1872.
  6. ‘Fragmentary Papers on Science and other Subjects,’ edited by his son, the Rev. F. J. Holland, London, 1875.

[Holland's Recollections; A. Hayward's review of the Recollections, Quarterly Review, cxxxii. 157–93; Times, 31 Oct. 1873; Medical Times and Gazette, 1873, ii. 498, 509; Lancet, 1873, ii. 650; Brit. Med. Journ. 1873, ii. 532; Munk's Coll. of Phys. iii. 144–9.]

G. T. B.