Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Monro, Thomas (1759-1833)

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MONRO, THOMAS (1759–1833), doctor of medicine and connoisseur, youngest son of Dr. John Monro [q. v.] and grandson of James Monro [q. v.], was born in London in 1759. He was educated under Dr. Parr, at Stanmore, Middlesex, and at Oriel College, Oxford, whence he graduatedB. A. 1780, M. A. 1783, and M.D. 1787. He became a candidate of the College of Physicians in 1790, and a fellow in 1791. He was censor in 1792, 1799, and 1812; Harveian orator in 1799; and was named an elect in 1811. He assisted his father in his profession, and succeeded him as physician to Bridewell and Bethlehem Hospital in 1792. This post he held till 1816, when he in turn was succeeded by his son, Dr. Edward Thomas Monro (1790-1856), who was also educated at Oriel, graduating M.D. in 1814 and becoming F.R.C.P. in 1806. He attended George III during his illness in 1811-12, and is said to have prescribed a hop pillow for his royal patient. Some charges which had been made against the treatment of patients at Bethlehem caused him to issue a pamphlet entitled 'Observations,' &c., on the subject in 1816. Dr. John Monro was a man of culture, as well as a distinguished physician, and had made a considerable collection of engravings and other works of art, and Thomas Monro inherited his taste, and became not only one of the best-known connoisseurs of the day, but an amateur artist, a teacher, and a patron, who specially devoted himself to assisting and training young artists in the practice of landscape-painting in water-colour, which was then in its infancy. About 1793 he removed from Bedford Square, where his father lived, to the house in Adelphi Terrace (No. 8), which has become famous in the annals of water-colour painting. He encouraged (perhaps in Bedford Square, certainly in Adelphi Terrace) the younger 'draftsmen' to make a studio of his house in winter evenings. They sat at desks opposite to one another, with one candle serving for a vis-a-vis. He had been a pupil of John Laporte [q. v.], and was himself an ardent sketcher, and he gave his pupils outlines to fill with colour and drawings to copy, watching them and assisting them with advice. He retained their work, and gave them 2s. or 2s. 6d. an evening and a good supper. His house was full of pictures and drawings, many of them by Gainsborough and Cozens, and he allowed them to be freely copied by his proteges. He bad also a country house, first at Fetcham, Surrey, and afterwards (from about 1805) at Bushey, Hertfordshire. A drawing by Girtin of his house at Fetcham is in the South Kensington Museum. To these houses he would invite his favourites, and employ them in making sketches from nature. By these means he stimulated, perhaps more than any other man, the growth of the art of water-colour, which resulted in the formation of a distinct school and of the Society of Painters in Water-colours.

Chief among those who profited by his kind patronage were J. M. W. Turner [q.v.] Thomas Girtin [q. v.], John Varley [q. v.] Joshua Cristall [q. v.], Peter De Wint [q.v.], William Henry Hunt [q. v.], and John Linnell [q. v.] He attended John Robert Cozens [q. v.] with the greatest kindness, and with little or no charge, after Cozens lost his reason until his death. He buried and raised monuments to Thomas Hearne [q. v.] (the artist) and Henry Edridge [q. v.] in the churchyard at Bushey. He died at Bushey on 14 May 1833, in his seventy-fourth year having many years previously retired from the practice of his profession. He was buried in Bushey churchyard beside his father and other members of his family, whose memory is honoured by a stained-glass window in the church. His extensive collection of watercolour drawings was sold at Christie's in June 1833, and contained a large number of early drawings by Turner, as well as some fine later ones.

Monro's second son was Henry (1791-1814) [q. v.]; his eldest son, Edward Thomas, was father of Edward and Henry (1817-1891), who are also separately noticed.

[Munk's Coll. of Phys. ii. 414; Gent. Mag. 1833, pt. i. p. 477; Roget's ‘Old’ Water-colour Society; Thornbury's Life of Turner; Somerset House Gazette, ii. 9; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. i. 475, 514, ii. 59.]

C. M.