Monro, John

, an eminent physician, was descended from the ancient family of that name, in the county of Ross, in North Britain; and was born at Greenwich, in the county of Kent, on the 16th of November, i715, O. S. His grandfather, Dr. Alexander Monro, was principal of the university of Edinburgh, and, just before the revolution in 1688, had been nominated by king James the lid, to fill the vacant see of the Orkneys; but the alteration which took place in the church-establishment of Scotland at that period, prevented his obtaining possession of this bishopric j and the friendship which prevailed between him and the celebrated lord Dundee, the avowed opponent | of king William, added to his being thought averse to the new order of things, exposed him to much persecution from the supporters of the revolution, and occasioned him to retire from Edinburgh to London, whitber he brought with him his only son, then a child. James Monro, the son of Dr. Alexander, after taking his academical degrees in the university of Oxford, practised with much success as a physician in London; and, dedicating his studies principally to the investigation of that branch of medicine which professes to relie* e the miseries arising from insanity, was elected physician to the hospital of Bridewell and Bethlem.

Dr. John Monro was the eldest son of Dr. James, and was educated at Merchant-Taylors school in London, whence he was removed in 1723* to St. John’s college, Oxford, of which he became a fellow. In 1743, by the favour of sir Robert Walpole, with whom his father lived on terms of friendship, he was elected to one of the travelling fellowships founded by Dr. Radcliffe, and soon after went abroad. He studied physic, first at Edinburgh, and afterwards at Leyden, under the celebrated Boerhaave; after which he visited various parts of Europe. He resided some time at Paris in 1745, whence he returned to Holland; and, after a short stay in that country, he passed through part of Germany into England, carefully observing whatever merited the notice of a man of learning and taste. After quitting Italy he paid a second visit to France, and, having continued some time in that country, returned to England in 1751.

During his absence on the continent, the university of Oxford conferred upon him the degree of doctor of physic, by diploma; and his father’s health beginning to decline soon after his arrival in England, he was, in July 1751, elected joint physician with him to Bridewell and Bethlem hospitals, and on his death, which happened in the latter end of 1752, he became sole physician thereof.

From this time he confined his practice entirely to cases of insanity, in which branch of the medical art he attained to a higher degree of eminence than was possessed by any of his predecessors or contemporaries. In 1758, Dr. Battie having published “A Treatise on Madness,” wherein he spoke, as Dr. Monro conceived, disrespectfully of the former physicians of Bethlem hospital, he thought it incumbent upon him to take some notice of the publication; | and, in the same year, published a small pamphlet, entitled, “Remarks on Dr. Baltic’s Treatise on Madness.” His ideas of this, dreadful malady, as well as the motives which induced him to compose these remarks, are very concisely and elegantly expressed in the advertisement which is prefixed to the work. “Madness is a distemper of such a nature, that very little of real use can be said concerning it; the immediate causes will for ever disappoint our search, and the cure of that disorder depends on management as much as medicine. My own inclination would never have led me to appear in print; but it was thought neces’sary for me, in my situation, to say something in answer to the undeserved censures which Dr. Battie has thrown upon my predecessors.

Dr. Monro defines madness to be a “vitiated judgment;” though he declares, at the same time, he “cannot take upon him to say, that even this definition is absolute and perfect.” His little work contains the most judicious and accurate remarks on this unhappy disorder; and the character which, in the course of it, he draws of his father, is so spirited, and so full of the warmth of filial affection, as to merit being selected. “To say he understood this distemper beyond any of his contemporaries is very little praise; the person who is most conversant in such cases, provided he has but common sense enough to avoid metaphysical subtilties, will be enabled, by his extensive know-^ ledge and experience, to excel all those who have not the same opportunities of receiving information. He was a man of admirable discernment, and treated this disease with an address that will not soon be equalled; he knew very well, that the management requisite for it was never to be learned but from observation; he was honest and sincere, and though no man was more communicative upon points of real use, he never thought of reading lectures on a subject that can be understood no otherwise than by personal observation: physic he honoured as a profession, but he despised it as a trade; however partial I may be to his memory, his friends acknowledge this to be true, and his enemies will not venture to deny it.

In 1753, Dr. Monro married Miss Elizabeth Smith, second daughter of Mr. Thomas Smith, merchant, of London, by whom he had six children. The eldest of these, John, was designed for the profession of physic, and had made a considerable progress in his studies, but died, after a short | illness, at St. John’s college, Oxford, in 1779, in the 25th year of his age. The loss of his eldest son was severely felt by Dr. Monro, to whom he was endeared by his many amiable qualities and promising abilities; and this loss was aggravated by that of his only daughter, Charlotte, who was carried off in the 22d year of her age, by a rapid consumption, within four years afterwards. She was a young lady, who, to a native elegance of manners, added excellent sense, and an uncommon sweetness of disposition. It is not wonderful, therefore, that her loss should prove a severe blow to a father who loved her with the most lively affection. He was now in his 63th year, and had hitherto enjoyed an uncommon share of good health; but the constant anxiety he was under during his daughter’s illness, preyed upon his mind, and brought on a paralytic stroke in January 1783. The strength of his constitution, however, enabled him to overcome the first effects of this disorder, and to resume the exercise of his profession; but his vigour, both of mind and body, began from this time to decline. In 1787, his youngest son, Dr. Thomas Monro (who, on the death of his eldest brother, had applied himself to the study of physic,) was appointed his assistant at Bethlem hospital; and he thenceforward gradually withdrew himself from business, till the beginning of 1791, when he retired altogether to the village of Hadley, near Barnet; and in this retirement he continued till his death, which happened, after a few days illness, on the 27th of December, in the same year, and in the 77th year of his age.

Dr. Monro was tall and handsome in his person, and of a robust constitution of body. Though naturally of a grave cast of mind, no man enjoyed the pleasures of society with a greater relish. To great warmth of temper he added a nice sense of honour; and, though avowedly at the head of that branch of his profession to which he confined his practice, yet his behaviour was gentle and modest, and his manners refined and elegant in an eminent degree. He possessed an excellent understanding, and great humanity <>t disposition but the leading features of his character were disinterestedness and generosity; as he has said of his father, so may it, with equal truth, be said of himself “physic he honoured as a profession, but he despised it as a trade” Never did he aggravate the misery of those who were in want, by accepting what could ill be | spared; whilst he frequently contributed as much by his bounty as his professional skill to alleviate the distress he was forced to witness. It was the remark of a, man of acute observation, who knew him intimately, “that he had met with many persons who affected to hold money in contempt, but Dr. Monro was the only man he had found who really did despise it.

He possessed a very elegant taste for the fine arts in general, and his collection, both of books and prints, was very extensive. He was uncommonly well versed in the early history of engraving; and the specimens he had collected of the works of the first engravers were very select and curious. From these, as well as from the communications of Dr. Monro, the late ingenious Mr. Strutt derived great assistance in the composition of his history of engravers. Though he never appeared as an author, except in the single instance mentioned above, he possessed a mind stored with the beauties of ancient as well as modern literature. Horace and Shakspeare were his favourite authors and his notes and remarks on the latter were considerable these he communicated to Mr. Steevens, previous to his publication of the works of our immortal poet anxious to contribute his mite to the elucidation of those passages which time has rendered obscure. His fondness for reading was great, and proved a considerable resource to him in the evening of life; and fortunately he was able to enjoy his books till within a very few days of his death.

Dr. Monro was buried in the church-yard of Hadley and, of his children, three only survived him James, who commanded the ship Houghton, in the service of the East India company; Charles; and Thomas, who succeeded him, and still is physician to Bethlem and Bridewell hospitals. Besides these, and his son and daughter, whose deaths are mentioned above, he had a younger son, Culling, who died an infant. 1

1 Written by one of the editors of the last edition of this Dictionary from private and authentic information.