J[ames] Johnston Abraham (1876-1963)


Life
[pseud. “James Harpole” from Hartley and Wimpole Sts.; occas. err. “Hartpole”; fam. “J.J.A.”;] born on Kingsgate St., Coleraine, Co. Derry; descended in paternal line from a Cromwellian officer in Ireland; family orginally Quakers, and latterly Methodists; ed. Coleraine Acad. Inst. [Grammar School], and TCD; grad. BA in English, 1894; won the New Shakespeare Society Prize and later awards in Natural Science; he was lent books by Edward Dowden (Chair of English) who counselled him to pursue medicine on Charles Lamb’s advice (‘Literature is a bad crutch but a good walking-stick’); grqad. MB, BCh, and BAO in 1900;
 
served his internship at at Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, witnessing a typhoid epidemic which provided him with subject matter for his novel (Night Nurse, 1913); first practised in Co. Clare; specialised in venereology; published articles on syphilis in the Dublin Journal of Medicine; travelled to Henley in charge of college rowing crew and appt. house surgeon at the West London Hospital, under McAdam Eccles; on discovering that he had contracted a pathogen in hospital, he travelled to East (‘We were all mad on Kipling’), acting as ship’s doctor on sea-voyage - ‘a holiday at sea’ on board The Bayano (Elder & Fyffe’s); appt. registrar at London Lock Hospitals on his return, 1908;
 
issued The Surgeon’s Log: Being Impressions of the Far East (1911), drafted as “The Cruise of the Cytemnestra”, and accepted for publication by Arthur Waugh at Chapman & Hall, running afterwards into 31 edns. [i.e., imprints]; Waugh then published his novel The Night Nurse (March 1913), with 4 reprints during 1913 and several thereafter to 1932 - a novel written some years earlier about the student-doctor Fitzgerald and Nora Townsend, the nurse he loves, set in Dr. Steevens’s Hospital; later filmed by Brian Desmond Hurst in 1935 as Nora O’Neale [var. Irish Hearts];
 
acted as major in Serbian Army Medical Corp, 1914, diagnosing typhus among troops, and later saw service in the Middle East, witnessing the aftermath of the defeat at Gaza; he held the rank of Lieut.-Col. and was awarded CBE and DSO; also elected a Knight of St. John; appt. Consulting Surgeon at Princess Beatrice Hospital, London; m. Lillian Francis, dg. of an asthma specialist; issued My Balkan Log (1921); appt. and RMO at Women's Hospital [Rescue Home], 1922; practice general surgery at Princess Beatrice Hospital, Kensington, with a private practice on Caledonian Rd.;
 
he wrote a biography of the 18th c. Quaker physician John Coakley Lettsom [1744-1815] as Lettsom (1933); appt. a director of Heinemann Medical Books, Ltd.; appt. managing dir. 1942, continuing in the post until his death; gave the Vickary Lecture of the Royal College of Surgeons in in 1943; gave the the Lloyd Roberts Oration in 1948; appt. Trustee of The Hunterian Collection of the RCS, 1954 - arranging transfer of pictures, et al., from Lock Hospital, when it was closed by Govt. in 1952; fought for preservation of the Lock Hospitals, sacrificed for realty value [see Autobiography];
 
issued A Surgeon’s Heritage (1953), reminiscences, followed by Surgeon’s Journey (1957), an autobiography - which, unlike earlier works, only ran to one edition; received a DLitt. from TCD on same day as George Birmingham, 1946; member of the Savage Club and the Irish Genealogical Research Society; elected President of Irish Medical Graduates Assoc. and Fellow Royal Society of Medicine [FRCS]; awarded Arnott Medal of the Association, 1949; d. 9 Aug. 1963 [aetat. 87]. IF DIW IBL DUB OCIL

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Works
Fiction
  • The Night Nurse, by the author of “The surgeon’s log”, &c. [i.e., J. Johnstone Abraham] (Chapman & Hall 1913), [2], vi, 310, [2]p., 19.5cm [ Printer: London & Bungay: Richard Clay & Sons, Ltd.]; Do. [cheaper edn.] (Sept. 1914), vi, 310, [2]p., 18.5cm; Do. [4th rep.] ([1926]), [2], x, 310, [2]pp., 18.5cm. [printer Richard Clay & Sons, Ltd. (London and Bungay)]; Do. [another edn.], by J. Johnstone Abraham, author of “The surgeon’s log”, &c. (London: George Newnes, Limited, [1932]), 128pp.
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Reminiscences, Travel, &c.
  • Surgeon’s Log: Being Impressions of the Far East [1st edn.] (London: Chapman and Hall 1911), 337pp., 23 pls., 8° - see details.
  • My Balkan Log (London: Chapman & Hall 1921), vii, 311pp., 21 pls., 8°.; Do. [2nd imp.] (1922), vii, [1], 311, [1]pp., ill. [16 pls., map], 22.3cm. [printed by Dunedin Press, Edinburgh]; Do. (NY: E. P. Dutton & Co. 1922), vii [1], 302, [2]pp., ill. [16 pls., map], 22.3cm.
  • with W. E. Reynolds, annot., The Golden Age of Prince Henry the Navigator [from “Os Filhos de D. João I” by Joaquim Pedro Oliviera Martins] (London: Chapman & Hall 1914), ix. 324pp., 12 ills. 8°. [with additions and annotation by Abraham and W. E. Reynolds];
  • as James Harpole, Leaves from a Surgeon’s Case-Book (London: Cassell & Co. 1938), xii, 261pp. [printed in Edinburgh by T. & A. Constable; 7 edns. - i.e., imps. - in 1938 - see details]; Do. (1941); Do. (NY: Frederick A. Stokes Co. 1938), xii, 200pp. [Pt. I: Leaves from a surgeon’s case-book.; Pt. II: The romance of medicine] [pub. in US Jan. 1938, 2nd printing, Feb. 1938];
  • as James Harpole, The White Coated Army: Reminiscences of a Surgeon (London 1938), pub. in America as The Body Menders (NY: Frederick A. Stokes Co. 1939), xii, 296pp.;
  • James Harpole, Behind the Surgeon’s Mask (London: Cassell & Co. 1940), ix, 272pp. [correspondence;
  • as James Harpole, A Surgeon’s Heritage ([London]: Cassell & Co. 1953), 222, [2]pp., 22.2cm. [printed by J. W. Arrowsmith Ltd. in Bristol];
  • Surgeon’s Journey: The Autobiography of J. J. Abraham (London: Heinemann 1957), viii, 441pp, 8°, ill. [22 pls. with ports. of self and others, incl. Alexander Fleming].
 

See also Latah and Amok [British Medical Journal, 24 Feb. 1942] (London 1912), 5pp., 22cm. [copy in Royal College of Surgeons signed by J. Johnston Abraham; concerns mental disorders, imitative behaviour, suggestion and Indonesia]

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Medicine and Medical Biography
  • The Clinical Aspects of ‘Juvenile General Paralysiswith ’: with an account of a case treated with ‘606,’ and observations on prophylaxis / by J. Johnston Abraham. ([London: s.n., 1911], 14pp., 22cm.
  • with Major F. M. Du-Plat-Taylor and John Coleridge, Cottage Hospitals (London: Ernest Benn 1930), 104pp., 4°.
  • Lectures on Gonorrhoea in Women and Children, ... with nine illustrations in the text and four plates [Medical Books] (London: William Heinemann Ltd. 1924), x, 142pp., ill. [4 pls.]. 18.9cm.
  • Lettsom: His Life, Times, Friends and Descendants (London: William Heinemann 1933), xx. 498pp., 4°., ills. and ports. [i.e., John Coakley Lettsom, 1744-1815].
  • Introduction to Fracastor: Syphilis or the French Disease - a poem in Latin hexameters ... with a translation, notes, and appendix by Heneage Wynne-Finch (London: William Heinemann 1935), vii, 253 pp., ill. [plates, incl. portraits], bibl., 8° [viz, Girolamo Fracastor, 1478-1553].
  • [J.J.A.,] ‘John Coakley Lettsom (1744-1815): Successful Quaker Physician’ [British Masters of Medicine] (London: Medical Press & Circular 1936), pp.52-63, ill [2 lvs. of pls.; ports.]
  • Ninety-nine Wimpole Street (London: Chapman & Hall 1937), 193pp., 8° [see contents].
  • Foreward to Jonathan Hutchinson: Life and Letters, by Herbert Hutchinson (London: W. Heinemann Medical Books 1946, 1947), ivpp., 9-257pp., ill. [front., pls., ports].
  • ‘John Fothergill, M.D., F.R.S., An Eighteenth-Century Scientist’, in Science, Medicine, and History: Essays on the Evolution of Scientific Thought and Medical Practice Written in Honour of Charles Singer, 2 vols. (London 1953), pp.[173]-78 .
  • The Early History of Syphilis [The Vicary Lecture 13 April 1944; 1943-44; British Journal of Surgery, 1944, Vol. 32, Oct. 1944] (Bristol: John Wright 1944), 43pp., ill., [ports.], 14.5cm. 
  • with Leslie T. Morton, comp., Heinemann Modern Dictionary for Nurses (London: Heinemann Medical Books [1961]), viii, 309pp., ill., 14cm.

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Bibliographical details

Surgeon’s Log: Being Impressions of the Far East [1st edn.] (London: Chapman and Hall 1911), 337pp., 23 pls., 8° [2nd & 3rd edns in 1911]; Do. [7th cheaper edn.] (London: Chapman & Hall 1913), 302pp., ill. [8 ills.] 19.5cm.; Do. [...] with forty-four illustrations (London: Chapman & Hall [1922]), xi, [1], 337, [1]p, ill. [pls.]; Do. [14th edn., reset] (London: Chapman & Hall 1926), xv, 286pp., 8°; Do. (1931), 23cm.; Do. [Pocket Edn.; 18th edn.] (London: Chapman & Hall 1933), xii, 294pp. [text only; map on lining paper]; Do. [20th edn.; Cheap Edn.] (London: Chapman & Hall 1935), xii, 294pp., ill. [8 lvs. of pls.], 20cm.; Do. [as Penguin Books, No. 66] (London: Bodley Head 1936), 288pp., 8°; Do [30th edn. - reps. to 1947 being counted as edns], revised, with new preface and additional chapter (London: 1947); Do. [7th edn.] (London : Heinemann 1959 ), xii, 244pp., ill.. 22cm.

Leaves From a Surgeon’s Case-book / by James Harpole [pseud., i.e. J. J. Abraham] ([London]: Cassell and Company [1937]), xii, 261., [3]p., 21.2cm [printed Edinburgh: T. and A. Constable Ltd. Copies in Nat. Lib. of Wales and TCD. An uncorrected proof copy [copy C] shows signs of earlier state of setting than copies A and B, numbered up to p.262 where pagination ends on p.261 in the others and being printed on thinner paper the others. Available dates cited as 1937, 1942 in COPAC record - online

Ninety-nine Wimpole Street (London: Chapman & Hall 1937), 193, [3]pp., 19cm/8°. CONTENTS: Why women dress; What doctors think of noveilsis; Mainly about grooves; Harley street; The pulse of the patient; Seeking the sun; Evolution of the doctor; Pioneers of medicine; Yet shall we conquer; The romance of medicine; The fear of death [chapter-essays].

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Criticism
G.M.S., obituary in British Journal of Veneral Disease, 40 (1964), pp.148-49 [with photo-port.; see extract]. See also Kevin Rockett [et al.], eds., Cinema & Ireland (1988), p.59 [on Irish Hearts, dir. Brian Desmond Hurst]; see also Irish Book Lover, Vols. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

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Commentary

Obituary [signed G.M.S.], in British Journal of Veneral Disease, 40 (1964), pp.148-49: ‘[...]After the 1914-18 war, in which he distinguished vhimself first in the Serbian campaign, and then as A.D.G.M.S. Egypt and A.D.M.S. Palestine, he was, much to his surprise, appointed to the Honorary Staff of the London Lock Hospital at Dean Street. He won the D.S.O. after the capture of Jerusalem, and in 1919 was awarded the C.B.E.’ (See Obituary by G.M.S. in The British Journal of Venereal Diseases, 40 (1964), p.148.)
[...]
‘While working intensively at his hospitals and in private, J.J.A. found time to indulge in his other
great love, i.e. writing. Following Cronin's The Citadel, J.J.A. felt that some effort must be made to counteract, if possible, the cynical atmosphere that this novel had engendered. He therefore decided to write a series of stories in a lighter vein that would appeal to a wider public. For this he adopted the name James Harpole, derived from the first syllables of two of the medical streets, i.e. Harley and Wimpole. Many of these stories were heard on the radio, and one of them at least, “The Surgeon's Heritage”, was translated into ten European languages.’ (Ibid., p.149.)
[...]
‘Johnston Abraham led the fight to save these over 200-year-old hospitals, but the combination of avaluable building site with heavy endowments, proved too tempting for bureaucracy and action comparable to that of Henry VIII in the dissolution of the monasteries, nearly broke J.J.A.'s heart. Anyone with any foresight realized that (human nature being what it is) it was only a question of time before the need for a centre for the adequate diagnosis and treatment of venereal and allied disorders would reappear. However, such arguments met with no support by the “powers that be” and the London Lock Hospitals died in 1952 after 207 years of service-as J.J.A. so graphically described in his autobiography.’ (Idem.)

Other details from this obituary notice as in Life, supra. [Available online as .pdf; accessed 02.09.2011.]

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Jennifer Johnston : Johnston calls Abraham ‘a distinguished surgeon and traveller’ and quotes remarks from his ‘autobiography’ [i.e., A Surgeon’s Log] in connection with her father’s decision to become a writer despite advice from his own father and from Abraham regarding such a ‘chancey job’. (Keynote address, in Edna Longley, ed., Culture in Ireland, Division or Diversity? QUB 1991, p.13.)

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Quotations
From Surgeon’s Journey (London: Heinemann 1957):

‘When the Home Rule Bill was defeated they breathed again. But I could well understand this fear, for as a small boy, you will remember, I had been told by my grandfather how he, as an infant in arms, had been hidden by his mother in the bog behind the farm when the rebels burnt it down in ‘98. Smalll wonder that as a little lad I believed we should all be murdered in our beds if Home Rule ever came to Ireland.’ (p.51.)
 
 
Further: ‘I wanted my daughter to see the historic country where her ancestors had lived for over three hundred years, and to meet some of her relatives still living there. She had seen the beauty of Dublin, felt the charm of the South. I wanted her now to sense the Ulster tradition, [...] the loveliness of the Ulster scenery, visit the historic sites which her forebears had helped to defend, and understand the depths of emotion and the feeling behind the word “Partition”. Just as Highlanders and Lowlanders are both Scots, so Ulstermen and Southerners are both Irish. But there is the same difference in temperament in Ireland as there is in Scotland, and unfortunately this is deepened in Ireland by the difference in religion. Living out of Ulster I try to be balanced in my cerebral cortex, but I often find to my surprise my hereditary emotional centres in the hypothalamus unexpectedly strong. So, as we passed over the Boyne on our way north, I reminded her of the story of William of Orange and the battle of 1690 which drove the Stuarts out of Ireland: and when we walked around on the ramparts of Derry, the “Maiden City”, I recounted again the story of the grim siege and the heroic defence that has held the imagination of historians ever since. I showed her “Roaring Meg”, a silver model of which was presented to Sir Winston Churchill when he was made a Freeman of Derry. “Roaring Meg” is the big gun still on the city wall which hurled defiance at the army of James II. In the Cathedral we handled the cannon-ball carrying the summons to surrender so contemptuously ignored. / The English have short memories. They forgive the people to whom they have been cruel. The Irish never forget, and I think my daughter understood this when I took her to Coleraine to see the Orangemen parade on the 12th of July to celebrate the anniversary of “The Boyne”. The “Lodges” were due to entrain at ten-thirty a.m. for Garvagh, where there was to be a gathering of 20,000 men, so we got to the station early.
 The Lodges were already assembled at the railway gates, the men with their orange or purple sashes, each Lodge with a silken banner carried by two men in front, with two boys behind them holding the ropes. Most of the Lodges had a fife-and-drum band. The drums were the main feature, especially the big drum which was often beaten with rattans so violently, and so enthusiastically, that the wrists of the drummers and the parchment of the drums became blood-stained before the day was done. There was a pipe band in kilts, for, of course, [we’]re sib to the Scot. Some of the bands had a sort of uniform, but many of the Lodge members walking behind the bands wore hard hats or caps or even top hats.
 The bands played “Lillibullero” or “The Boyne Water”, “The Girl I Behind Me”, “Croppies Lie Down”, or some other tune associated with the occasion.
 There was a religious fervour about it all that I had almost forgotten. I should have remembered this, for when the Ulster Division advanced their almost total destruction on the Somme in the First World War charged to the old Orange tunes.
 Motoring round that afternoon, whenever we passed through a village we generally found the orange garlands strung across the road, and big wooden frames covered with bright orange shavings-just as I remembered them from my boyhood. There, as before, were the pale paintings of William of Orange on his charger, the mottoes being proudly displayed names of places famous for their historic associations. Only Queen Victoria had gone - replaced by a portrait George VI. Brought up in the Harley Street area, my daughter [found] all this most intriguing. She was learning to be an Ulster-woman.
 Before we left for London of course we had to see The Giant’s [Cause]way, that extraordinary eruption of lava which solidified into thousands of columns of basalt on the North Antrim coast forty million years ago, and is now found projecting for some hundreds of feet into the sea before it disappears. The other end of the eruption is Fingal’s Cave on the Island of Staffa; and the legend is that Finn McCoul, the Irish giant, father of Ossian, challenged the Scottish giant, Ben-a-donner, to combat, built the causeway between the two places, defeated the Scot and then, to prevent a surprise attack after he’d won, destroyed the portion between Ireland and Scotland. Hence the name “Causeway” The columns of basalt are mainly irregular pentagons and hexagons interdigitat[ed].
(Surgeon’s Journey, London: Heinemann 1957, pp.376-77.)

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References
Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction [Pt. I] (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), [err. Johnstone], b. Coleraine, MD TCD 1908 and surgeon in London; one novel; The Night Nurse (Chapman & Hall 1913) [5th ed.], 318pp.; set in Dublin hospital ’closely observed’; deals with sex problem of ’the greater and the lesser love’ against background of undesirable Catholics and disreputably Irishry (four plagues of Ireland being priests, politicians, pawnbrokers and publicans). Note, ’The greater and the lesser love’ referred to here is in fact a chapter title reflecting the conflict between the demands of a diphtheria epidemic and ’the alluring sex curves of breasts and hip’ of the title-character as perceived by the young doctor. SEE Irish Book Lover vols. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

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Kevin Rockett, et al., eds., Cinema & Ireland (1988). p.59, cites J. Johnston Abraham, author of the novel Night Nurse filmed as Irish Hearts in 1934, dir. Irish-born film-maker Brian Desmond Hurst; in it a young doctor whose love for two women is bound up with his struggle against an outbreak of typhus.

British Library holds [1] Lectures on Gonorrhoea in Women and Children, etc.. x. 142 pp. William Heinemann: London, 1924. 8o. [2] Lettsom: his life, times, friends and descendants. [With illustrations, including portraits.]. xx. 498pp. William Heinemann: London, 1933. 4o. [3] My Balkan Log, etc.. vii. 311pp. pl. xvi. Chapman & Hall: London, 1921. 8o. [4] Ninety-nine Wimpole Street. [Article on medical life.]. 193pp. Chapman & Hall: London, 1937. 8o. [5] Surgeon’s Journey. The autobiography of J. J. Abraham. [With plates, including portraits.]. viii. 441 pp. Heinemann: London, 1957. 8o. [6] The Night Nurse.. 128pp. George Newnes: London, [1932.] 8o. [7] The Surgeon’s Log. (Seventh edition.) [With plates.]. xii. 244pp. pl. 8. Heinemann: London, [1960.] 8o. [8] The Surgeon’s Log. Being impressions of the Far East ... With forty-four illustrations. Third edition. (Fourteenth edition.) [A reissue.] The Surgeon’s Log, etc.. xii. 337pp. Chapman & Hall: London, 1911. 8o.. London, 1911.. xv. 286pp. Chapman & Hall: London, 1926. 8o.. Chapman & Hall: London, 1931. 8o. [9] The Surgeon’s Log, etc.. 288pp. Bodley Head: London, 1936. 8o. [10] The Surgeon’s Log, etc. (Pocket edition.). xi. 294pp. Chapman & Hall: London, 1933. 8o. [11] The Surgeon’s Log, etc. (Twentieth edition.). 294pp. Chapman & Hall: London, 1935. 8o. [12] Fracastor. Syphilis or the French Disease. A poem in Latin hexameters ... with a translation, notes, and appendix by Heneage Wynne-Finch ... and an introduction by James Johnston Abraham [with plates, including portraits, and a bibliography]. vii. 253pp. William Heinemann: London, 1935. 8o. [13] Heinemann Modern Dictionary for Nurses. Compiled by L. T. Morton ... and J. J. Abraham.. viii. 309pp. William Heinemann Medical Books: London, 1961. 16o. [14] The Night Nurse. [A novel.] By the author of “The Surgeon’s Log” [J. J. Abraham]. vi. 310pp. Chapman & Hall: London, 1913. 8o. [15] The Golden Age of Prince Henry the Navigator ... Translated [from “Os Filhos de D. João I.”], with additions and annotations by J. J. Abraham and W. E. Reynolds. With twelve illustrations.. ix. 324pp. Chapman & Hall: London, 1914. 8o. [16] The Theory and Practice of the Steinach Operation. With ... an introduction to the English edition by J. Johnston Abraham .. xiv. 150pp. W. Heinemann: London, 1924. 8o. [17] Cottage Hospitals. By Major F. M. Du-Plat-Taylor ... John Coleridge ... J. Johnston Abraham. [With plates.]. 104pp. Ernest Benn: London, 1930. 4o. [18] A Text-Book of Venereal Diseases. [Edited by James Johnston Abraham.]. 439pp. William Heinemann Medical Books: London, 1950. 8o. ALSO, British Printed Catalogue (pre-1957). As pseud “James Hartpole”: The Golden Age of Francis the Navigator, trans. from Oliviera Martins (1914); Cottage Hospitals (1930), with S. M. D-Plat-Taylor [sic]; works on venereal disease include. Lectures on Gonorrhoea in Women and Children (London: Heinemann 1924); and Steinach operation; Lettsom [etc.], ill. and pts., x, 124pp.; Night Nurse (London: George Newnes 1913; 1932); Ninety-nine Wimpole Street [articles on medical life] (London: Chapman & Hall 1937), 193pp. Surgeon’s Log, being impressions of the Far East ... with forty ills (London: Chapman & Hall 1911), xii, 337pp.; Do., 14th ed., xv, 286pp. (London: Chapman & Hall 1926); pocket ed., xi, 294pp 1933; 20th ed., 1935; Penguin Books, No.66 (London: Bodley Head 1936; rep. 1931)

Cathach Books (Winter 1996-97) lists Surgeon’s Log: The Autobiography of J. Johnston Abraham (London: Heinemann 1957), 30 pls.

Belfast Central Public Library holds Night Nurse (1926), and The Surgeon’s Log (1912).

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Notes
Namesake?: ‘Abraham Johnson’ - a possible variant on this author’s name - is bestowed to one of the characters in W. B. Yeats’s play The Words Upon the Window-Pane. The character in question complains of travelling from Belfast at considerable expense and being prevented from communicating with the great evangelist Moody by the dominant spirit of the séance. (R. K. Alspach, ed., Variorum Edn. of the Plays of W. B. Yeats, Macmillan 1966, p.942.)

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