Hunt, James

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Hunt, James

(b. Swanage, England, 1833; d. Hastings, England, 29 August 1869)


James’s father, Thomas Hunt, made an extensive study of the causes of stammering and developed a method of treatment that was often successful; he himself contributed greatly to James’s education. Conscious of his own lack of medical training, he wished his son to study medicine and Beddoe reports that James went to Cambridge, but there is no confirmation of this. His mother’s name was Mary.

Hunt lived in Hastings, where he continued his father’s work; he is said to have treated some 1,700 cases of stammering. In 1854 he published the short Treatise on the Cure of Stammering, which included a memoir of his father. It ran to seven editions and was later expanded to give a comprehensive history of theories of stammering from classical times. He also wrote a review of the contemporary literature on the localization of the functions in the brain, with special reference to the faculty of language.

Hunt believed the chief cause of stammering to be improper use of the mouth and faulty breathing, resulting in nervousness. He found the most successful treatment to be based on analysis, with each individual patient, of the technique of voice production, followed by reeducation of muscle control and, most importantly, the building up of the patient’s confidence. He noted that patients do not stammer when singing, and that Charles Kingsley, whom he later treated successfully, did not stammer when absorbed in preaching a sermon. Hunt was wholly persuaded that surgery was inadvisable for alleviating speech disabilities.

Hunt’s main contribution was the impetus he lent to establishing anthropology in England as a distinct discipline. He joined the Ethnological Society in 1854 at the age of twenty-one, and from 1859 to 1862 he was honorary secretary. But he felt that its scope of study was too narrow, and in 1863 it was he who was largely instrumental in founding the Anthropological Society of London, becoming its first president. He initiated publication in 1863 of the Anthropological Review, which was later taken over by the society; and this caused an acrimonious correspondence concerning the new journal in the Athenaeum when Hyde Clarke attacked Hunt’s financial management.

Hunt himself contributed several articles and unsigned book reviews to the early volumes of the Review, mostly on racial issues. He believed that Negroes formed a separate species and that treatment of them should take this into account. Readings of his two papers on physical and mental characteristics of the Negro before the Anthropological Society and British Association in 1863 were both followed by stormy discussions. In the course of reviews, he wrote on miscegenation, and attacked J. S. Mill’s positions on race and legislation in political economy and Darwin’s views on natural selection. He is also known to have done some work on the destructive effects of peat upon the human body.

The Anthropological Society published a number of significant monographs. Among these was Carl Vogt’s Lectures on Man, the translation of which was edited by Hunt, who omitted a few passages that seemed to him not in good taste.

In helping to foster the science of anthropology in England, Hunt persuaded the British Association to set up, in 1866, a separate sub-section for the subject within the association’s biological section; anthropology had previously been considered under the section for geography. In 1883 anthropology became a separate section.


I. Original Works. Hunt’s work on stammering began as a short essay with a rather longer memoir, described as “a brief act of filial piety” and entitled A Treatise on the Cure of Stammering...With Memoir of the Late Thomas Hunt (London, 1854). There was a second edition which is difficult to trace, and subsequently a third (1857), fourth (1861), fifth (1863), sixth (1865) and seventh (1870). By publication of the last edition, the memoir and testimonials had been abridged and sections on the theory and techniques of cure greatly expanded. The 1861 edition of Stammering and Stuttering: Their Nature and Treatment has been reprinted in facsimile (New York, 1967) with an introduction in which Elliott J. Schaffer evaluates Hunt’s views in the light of later theories.

A more general work was A Manual of the Philosophy of Voice and Speech, Especially in Relation to the English Language and the Art of Public Speaking (London, 1859). Hunt’s review “On the Localisation of the Functions of the Brain, With Special Reference to the Faculty of Language” was published in parts in the Anthropological Review, 6 (1868), 329–345; and 7 (1869), 100–116, 201–216.

“On the Negro’s Place in Nature” was read to the Anthropological Society in 1863; an abstract of the paper and verbatim report of the two sessions of discussion were printed in Journal of the Anthropological Society of London, 2 (1864), xv-Ivi; and the full paper was published in Memoirs Read Before the Anthropological Society of London, 1 (1863–1864), 1–64. Several other signed papers and anonymous book reviews are to be found in the first seven volumes of the Anthropological Review, including his “Introductory Address on the Study of Anthropology,” inaugurating the new society, 1 (1863), 1–20; and his annual anniversary addresses on progress in anthropology.

“On the Physical and Mental Characteristics of the Negro” was recorded in abstract in Report of the 33rd Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1863 (1864), 140. Hunt also edited Carl Vogt, Lectures on Man: His Place in Creation and in the History of the Earth (London, 1864), in which there is his editorial preface.

II. Secondary Literature. There is a concise account of James Hunt by G. T. Bettany in the Dictionary of National Biography, 28 (1891), 266–267, and also an entry for his father Thomas Hunt. The appreciative Éloge by E. Dally in Mémories de la Société d’anthropologie de Paris, 2nd ser., 1 (1873), xxvi-xxxvi, includes a bibliography of 31 items, and Hunt was remembered in his own society by the presidential address of John Beddoe in Anthropological Review, 8 (1870), Ixxix-Ixxxii. The controversy with Hyde Clarke may be traced through the index to the Athenaeum for 1868. There is a short entry in A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists, compiled by J. McCabe (London, 1920).

Diana M. Simpkins

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Hunt, James

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