Guy's Hospital, London
It appears that Jonathan Couch prepared for the transfer of Thomas from Polperro to London by two visits to the capital, the first for two weeks in May 1848, and the second later in the summer, with Thomas commencing his studies at Guy's Hospital in late September or early October, 1849.
Guy's Hospital in London had a tradition of political radicalism dating back to the time of the French Revolution. When Jonathan Couch entered the combined medical school of Guy's and St Thomas' in 1808, he was tutored by Astley Cooper, who had been in Paris shortly after the commencement of the Revolution. When Thomas entered Guy's there was a similar revolutionary atmosphere throughout Europe. During 1848, commonly known as the 'Year of Revolutions', there were revolutionary outbreaks in Galicia (1), Austria (4), Hungary (1), Germany (2), Prussia (2), Italy (5), and France (2), with constitutional assemblies granted in five states. In Hungary. A Short History by Norman Stone (2019), Protestants in general and Calvinists in particular are identified as leading actors in European democratisation at the time. The Couches were Protestants but not Calvinists. The role of radical Protestantism in the English Civil War is obscured by Q in his novel The Splendid Spur, even though he supported liberalism.
When Thomas arrived in London in the autumn of 1849, his father and his older brother were well known figures in zoology, botany and geology. The records of Jonathan Couch name some of the leading scientific figures he associated with during his two visits to London in the summer of 1848. This would have opened doors to Thomas that were closed to others. According to Bertha Couch, Jonathan had not infrequent trips to London, one being in August 1835, when he met Bransby Cooper of Guy's, nephew of his former tutor Sir Astley Cooper.
Scientists encountered by Jonathan Couch
There follows a list of scientists Jonathan Couch met in 1835 and 1848 and in some cases corresponded with. The names were found in Jonathan Couch's Memoirs and Bertha Couch's Life (1891). Information is drawn from the Dictionary of National Biography.
Sir Henry J. De La Beche (1796-1855) The first director of the Geological Survey. 1840-50, the director general of the mining records office, and who helped establish the royal School of Mines and in 1851 the geological museum in Jermyn Street. He gathered around him men such as Edward Forbes and Robert Hunt (see below). The president of the Geological Society in 1855.
Professor Thomas Bell (1792-1880) of 17 New Broad Street, London. A dental surgeon and Professor of Zoology at Kings College, London. A correspondent of Jonathan Couch.
John J. Bennet (1801-1876) A Fellow of the Linnean Society and the Royal Society. Successor to Brown as Keeper of the Botanical Department at the British Museum.
Robert Brown (1773-1858) First Keeper of the Botanical Department at the British Museum.
Professor E. Forbes (1815-1854) A Fellow of the Linnean Society. Professor of Zoology at Kings College, London, and of Natural History at Edinburgh.
John Edward Gray (1800-1875) Keeper of the Zoological Department at the British Museum, with an interest in social, educational and sanitary reform.
Robert Hunt (1807-1887) Born at Devonport. He was in charge of the medical dispensary in London for four years, the secretary of the RCPS and from 1845 the Keeper of Mining Records at the Museum of Practical Geology and lecturer at the Royal School of Mines. In 1859 he was President of the Miners' Association of Cornwall and Devon, for whom, Richard Q. Couch produced his 'Statistical Account of Mortality in Miners'. As a folklorist he was a friend of Thomas Q. Couch.
Mr Mitchell Librarian to the Duke of Bedford.
Professor Sir Richard Owen, KCB (1804-1892). He was London's most distinguished surgeon, comparative anatomist and lecturer. He had absorbed John Hunter's belief in fact and observation over theory and speculation as an assistant at the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons to William Clift, who had been educated at Bodmin Grammar School shortly before Jonathan Couch. As a palaeontologist he doubted Darwin's interpretation of evolution. A correspondent of Jonathan Couch.
John Van Voorst (1833-1886) A publisher and bookseller dealing with Bell, Forbes and Yarrell.
William Yarrell (1784-1856) of 6 Little Ryder Street, St James, London. Treasurer of the Linnean Society and a member of the Zoological Society. A close friend and correspondent of Jonathan Couch.
No doubt Thomas had direct or indirect access to many of these individuals through his father and his brother. Yet this access was supported through the work he had done on botany in the Polperro area.
Doctors at Guy's Hospital, 1849-1852
When training at Guy's Hospital, Thomas would have come into contact with a number of distinguished doctors, most of whom would have taught his brother Richard. Two of these were Thomas Addison and Richard Bright, FRS, who combined in publishing Elements of the Practice of Medicine. Both emphasised the importance of fact, observation and experiment over theory and speculation. A third was Sir William Gull, who lectured on physiology and comparative anatomy in Guy's medical school. He also championed the rational treatment of the insane, with considerable success. In relation to theory Gull said: 'We have no system to satisfy; no dogmatic opinions to enforce.'
One remarkable resident at Guy's Hospital was Alfred S. Taylor, an expert on poisons and medico-legal questions. In 1842, he published the ground-breaking The Principles and Practice of Medical Jurisprudence. Thomas was able to put this specialism into practice in the law courts of Bodmin. J.R. Johns informs us that after passing his examinations as a Licentiate of the Apothecaries Company and at the College of Surgeons, Thomas remained in London for a further six months, acting as dresser (assistant) to John Hilton, according to some the finest anatomist of his time.
Two letters made available by Johns (2010) reveal something of Thomas' life in London. Firstly, he lodged at 6 Union Street, Horsemonger Lane. Secondly he dined at a nearby coffee house. As well as medicine Thomas took every opportunity of advancing his art and his zoology. He visited the Royal Academy around the beginning of June 1852 to see an exhibition, but was unimpressed by the Pre-Raphaelite contributions. As he was probably short of money, training being expensive, he was pleased to get a free ticket to a watercolour exhibition, a form of painting in which he specialised. His botanical knowledge came into effect with a picture Ophelia, being able to identify purple loosestrife, forget-me-not and duck weed floating in a brook. A second letter of a few days later, centred on the bone structure of fish to which Jonathan was making reply, reveals that Thomas was suffering from dyspepsia through overwork, with Jonathan advising air and exercise.
On leaving London Thomas spent some time as locum for his brother Richard, facilitating the honeymoon of Richard and Lydia in June 1853. At the time Thomas was offered a position with the forces in the Crimea, but Jonathan thought his son's health not up to a wartime role. Instead he took a position as assistant to John Ward in Bodmin, with temporary charge of the lunatic asylum in the absence of Dr T. Boisragon. Maybe he followed Dr Gull's methods.
It was not until 1864 that Thomas appears to have recommenced serious work in natural history, with his Bodmin Calendar. Establishing a medical practice, marrying and starting a family, and developing his watercolouring appears to have taken up his time. It was not until a year after Q's birth that the first Calendar was published in the journal of the RIC. The last was in 1875 when Q was twelve. The publications in the RIC cover the early years of Q's life and are therefore of particular interest.