Henry Paman (1623-95)

Professor of Medicine, Gresham College

Mentions in Pocketbook: June 1664

‘Ah happy Paman, mightily approv’d, Both by thy Patients, and the Poor belov’d’. Jane Barker, Poetical Recreations, 1688.

Henry Paman (bap. 1623, d. 1695) was Professor of Physic at Gresham College, Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, and Martin Lister’s tutor at St. John’s College, Cambridge.

Though Paman originally entered Emmanuel College to study medicine, he graduated M.A. from St. John’s, became a fellow, graduated M.D. from Oxford, and held the Linacre lectureship in medicine.   He eventually served as public orator for the University from 1674-81, evidencing an elegant Latinity in his eight speeches.

With the assistance of his former tutor and patron William Sancroft (1617-93) who would become Archbishop of Canterbury, Paman eventually became professor of medicine at Gresham College, London, a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and L.L.D at Cambridge, before being appointed master of the faculties there by Sancroft.  Though Paman did not publish medical treatises himself, he left behind a large amount of correspondence with Sancroft, colleagues at Cambridge, and with his colleague and friend Dr Thomas Sydenham, provided a prefatory letter to Sydenham’s work on venereal diseases.

In the midst of a busy professional life, Paman amassed an enormous library of medical and scientific works—in this Sancroft, who also had an impressive library from which he often borrowed, may have influenced him.

As well as gifts to Emmanuel College and the Royal College of Physicians, Paman left seventy-five books remaining at his death to St John’s, with £50 to buy more.  The works ranged from those in intestinal medicine (Thomas Willis’s Diatribæ duæ medico-philosophicæ, 2nd ed., 1660), to hematology (Jacques Chaillou’s Questions de ce temps sur l’origine et le mouvement du sang, 1664), anatomy (John Browne’s Myographia nova, or, A graphical description of all the muscles in the humane body, as they arise in dissection, 1698), and materia medica (Jean Prevost’s Medicina pauperum, 1660).

Cartographic works, numismatic guides, volumes written by antiquarians, and other works of polite literature such as the letters of Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac completed his collection.  Paman’s bibliophilia and breadth of interests seem to have inspired Martin Lister, who also demonstrated virtuosity in a variety of fields, and who, in turn, collected books with fervour, eventually leaving his library, as his tutor had done, to a university.

In a draft letter with many crossings out, insertions and blotches, Lister wrote upon his arrival in Montpellier to Paman:

Most reverend Sr—If I acquit my selfe very late of my duty, it is my ill happ and not my fault: my great indisposition of body I contracted at the Colledge was noe small trouble and hindrance to me in my pretended Voyage; and now I can say that I have set up my selfe in this Cittie where I purpose to rest my selfe a while soe here the first moment I found my selfe in a tolerable condition to pay my respects and honour I beare you . . .

Letter, November 1664

He then remarked, ‘If I had my health as other men theirs, I should be undoubtedly as happy as they and instead of being a Stranger to my Religion and Country’, and lamented that he could not assist when ‘you officiate at the Altar’, and begged Paman to ‘remember me there in your Prayers’.

Conduct manuals and travel essays commonly advised that the best way for a young Protestant to avoid the ‘snares of popery’ was to have a thorough foundation in the Protestant faith, and Lister was clearly in need of some extra spiritual succour.  Lister was an asthmatic, the prolonged travel to Montpellier due to storms across the channel had made him ill, and he was probably homesick and afraid. His curiosity, however, eventually won out over his self-pity and fears for his soul, as he had three memorable years in Montpellier and became a life-long Francophile.

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