Venner, Tobias (DNB00)

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VENNER, TOBIAS (1577–1660), medical writer, was born ‘of honest parents’ at Petherton, Somerset, in 1577. He matriculated from St. Alban Hall, Oxford, on 15 May 1595, graduated B.A. on 1 Feb. 1598–9, and M.A. on 7 July 1603. He then returned to Petherton, where he established himself in practice as a physician. On 31 March 1613 he graduated M.B. and M.D. at Oxford, having obtained a certificate from the regius professor of medicine that he was fit for these degrees, a dispensation for non-attendance on the professor's lectures, and a grace in convocation which relieved him of the necessity of waiting over four congregations for the degrees (Reg. Univ. Oxon. ii. i. 34, 125, 126, 128). He subsequently extended his practice to Bridgewater and Bath, where he resided during the spring and autumn, the seasons for visitors in quest of the Bath waters, which Venner did much to popularise. In 1620 he published his first book, ‘Via Recta ad Vitam Longam; or a Plaine Philosophicall Discourse of the Nature, Faculties, and Effects of all such things as by way of Nourishments and Dieteticall Observations made for the Preservation of Health … with the true use of our Bathes of Bathe’ (London, 4to). The dedication to Francis Bacon, lord Verulam, was changed in the second edition (London, 1622, 4to) to one to Prince Charles; other editions appeared in 1628, 1638, 1650, and 1660, all published in quarto in London. The treatise on the ‘Bathes of Bath’ was issued separately in 1628 with a dedication to Henrietta Maria, and reprinted in the ‘Harleian Miscellany’ (1744, vol. ii.) A second part of the ‘Via Recta’ was published (London, 1623, 4to), ‘wherein the true use of sleepe, exercise, excretions, and perturbations is, with their effects, discussed.’

To these works Venner is said to have owed his large practice at Bath. He followed them up in 1621 with ‘A Briefe and Accurate Treatise concerning the taking of the Fume of Tobacco, which very many in these dayes doe too too [sic] licentiously use …’ (London, 4to); reprinted with the ‘Via Recta’ in 1638, 1650, and 1660. It is interesting as showing the prevalence of tobacco-smoking as early as 1621; Venner upbraids those who ‘cannot travel without a tobacco-pipe at their mouth,’ and who smoke between the courses at meals. Venner died at Bath on 27 March 1660, and was buried in the south aisle of St. Peter's Church, where a ‘massie monument of free-stone,’ with an effigy, was erected to his memory (cf. Pepys, Diary, ed. Braybrooke, iv. 471). ‘He lived to see both his wives and all his children die before him, and left his estate to the relations by his second wife, now in Bath’ (Guidott, Lives and Characters of the Physicians of Bath, 1676, pp. 168–73). Two sons, John and Tobias, graduated in medicine at Oxford (Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Gardiner, Reg. of Wadham. i. 62). A portrait, engraved by Faithorne, dated 1660, ‘ætat. suæ 85,’ is prefixed to the 1660 edition of the ‘Via Recta.’

[Authorities cited; Addit. MS. 5520, f. 260; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 491–2; Granger's Biogr. Hist. iii. 89; John Wood's Description of Bath, 1749; Joseph Hunter's Connection of Bath with the Literature and Science of England, 1853, pp. 45, 79; Fairholt's Tobacco and its Associations, 1859, p. 107; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714.]

A. F. P.