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literature

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English Literature: Nineteenth Century  
 
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Ethel M. Arnold

In 1894, appeared Platonics: A Study, a short novel by Ethel M. Arnold, who has been identified as a niece of Matthew Arnold but about whom little is known except that she lived for a time in Rome and worked as a translator of French literature.

Evoking a traditional code term for homosexuality in its title, Platonics focuses on the lifelong closeness between two women who also had fleeting heterosexual attachments (one describes the other as "the solitary human being whom she loved"). This obscure novel, and its presently obscure author, merit more attention and study.

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Lord Alfred Douglas

In the same year, in the short-lived Oxford undergraduate magazine The Chameleon, Lord Alfred Douglas published his poem "Two Loves," which became notorious in the following year when Oscar Wilde quoted its description of homosexuality as "the love that dare not speak its name" in his defense in his first trial.

Carpenter's Homogenic Love

Also in 1894, but expressing an opposite, affirmative attitude, Edward Carpenter published and circulated privately his Homogenic Love and its Place in a Free Society, a daring liberationist essay that Carpenter had first delivered as a speech and that in general pattern and spirit follows Symonds's A Problem in Modern Ethics.

The Wilde Scandal, Butler, and Housman

The year of the Wilde scandal, 1895, saw further notable manuscript work. Echoing Tennyson, Samuel Butler drafted "In Memoriam H. R. F." when the Swiss student Hans Faesch left London for home and followed it with several ardent letters.

Housman wrote another poem about Adalbert Jackson, "He looked at me with eyes I thought," and, most significant, his "Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?," his angry response to the Wilde trials and to the perennial persecution of homosexuals; these did not see print until the late 1930s.

Baron Corvo (Frederick William Rolfe)

In 1895-1896, Frederick William Rolfe (1860-1913), better known by his pseudonym Baron Corvo, published in the Yellow Book the six pieces to which he would give the title Stories Toto Told Me when they were reissued in book form in 1898. Rolfe's description of Toto and his friends, based on a group of boys with whom he spent much of the summer of 1890 in the Italian countryside, is suffused with erotic feeling.

Houseman's A Shropshire Lad

In 1896, Housman's A Shropshire Lad, one of the period's most influential books of male homosexual writing, was published. Housman could of course only portray homosexuality indirectly in A Shropshire Lad. Nevertheless, he identifies his primary audience as "lads like me" in its final poem, "I hoed and trenched and weeded," and, fittingly, the book was read homosexually by contemporary gay male readers.

For example, Wilde's friend and executor Robert Ross memorized poems from the book to recite to Wilde when visiting him in prison, and Housman sent Wilde an autographed copy upon his release.

Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson

In 1896, also appeared two pertinent publications by Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson (1861-1932), one of E. M. Forster's favorite teachers at Cambridge and later the subject of a 1934 biography by him. The sequence of twenty-six sonnets in Dickinson's privately printed Poems concerns his feelings for Ferdinand Schiller, and his chapter on "Friendship" in his best-selling The Greek View of Life (which went through seventeen editions in his lifetime) is an almost open defense of male homosexuality.

Symonds and Ellis's Sexual Inversion

Symonds and Havelock Ellis's controversial study Sexual Inversion appeared first in a German translation of 1896 (where it had the title Das Contrare Geschlechtsgefühl or Contrary Sexual Feeling) and then in English in 1897. Symonds was dead by the time the book appeared, and the sections discussing homosexuality as pathology are Ellis's, not his.

Still Sexual Inversion bore Symonds's mark in many ways: A Problem in Greek Ethics finally appeared publicly as Appendix A; Symonds supplied many of the case histories from the correspondence he had received in response to his earlier, privately circulated studies (Symonds himself is Case 17); and parts of A Problem in Modern Ethics are scattered throughout.

Scandalized, Symonds's family insisted that his name be removed from all future editions.

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