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literature

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English Literature: Nineteenth Century  
 
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Edward FitzGerald

Homosexual writing not only persisted but accelerated in these same decades, however. In the 1850s Tennyson's close friend Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883) published two works that to a knowing eye would have hinted strongly at his homosexuality.

In his translation of Jamí's Salámán and Absál (1856), an unmarried Shah produces a child without the aid of a woman. And in translating the Epicurean Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (1859), FitzGerald removed both the woman and the youth addressed in the original and left the sex of the beloved deliberately unidentified.

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Much more directly revealing of FitzGerald's homosexuality are his letters, particularly those about William Kenworthy Browne from the 1830s through 1850s and about "Posh" Fletcher and other sailors in the 1860s.

William Johnson

The most open homosexual work of this decade was the 1858 Ionica, published anonymously by William Johnson (1823-1892), who changed his name to Cory after his dismissal from Eton.

Cushioned by some heterosexual poems and by the classical or Medieval settings of most of the rest, Ionica contains several ardent expressions of male-male desire (for example, "Desiderato" and "A Separation," with its promise that "In brighter days to come / Such men as I would not lie dumb").

John Addington Symonds

Inspired by Ionica, in 1861 John Addington Symonds (1840-1893) began the succession of poems about other men that he peppered friends with in several privately printed volumes of the 1870s and 1880s and that occasionally appeared in his publicly distributed books as well.

During these same years, Symonds also began the voluminous correspondence that is an invaluable source for his homosexuality, and his life was changed forever in 1865 when a homosexual Cambridge friend, F. W. H. Myers, introduced him to Whitman's work.

Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) published Goblin Market in 1862, with at least three poems of strong lesbian implication: "My Dream," "The World," and especially the long title poem, where one sister, threatened with death from "suck[ing] fruit globes fair or red," is saved by another who, antidotally, has the goblins spread their fruits "against her mouth" and then begs her sister to "Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices / . . . Eat me, drink me, love me."

Rossetti broke or rejected two engagements and maintained a lifelong attachment to her mother, sister, and religious communities of women, facts that, together with this material, suggest a lesbian aspect to her sexuality.

John Henry Newman

In 1864, Newman published his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, with its effusive closing dedication to the Rev. Ambrose St. John, who had apparently replaced Hurrell Froude in his feelings. Several of Newman's letters after St. John's sudden death in 1875 contain passionate statements, and on Newman's own death fifteen years later, the two men were buried at his request in the same grave.

Digby Mackworth Dolben

Between 1864 and 1866, the young religious enthusiast Digby Mackworth Dolben (1848-1867) wrote a group of love poems about his fellow Eton student Martin Le Marchant Gosselin that appeared, only in part and with some circumspection, in the first collection of his work in 1911.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) met Dolben at Oxford in 1865 and pursued him in a series of letters, while also obsessing about him in his diary and two poems, "Where art thou friend" and "The Beginning of the End." (In his autograph copy, Hopkins's editor, Robert Bridges, noted that the second of these "must never be printed," though by the time of his first edition of Hopkins in 1918 he did include it.)

Algernon Charles Swinburne

In 1866, Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909) published his controversial Poems and Ballads, which included three poems with frank lesbian content ("Anactoria," "Faustine," and "Sapphics") and two suggestive of male bisexuality ("Hermaphroditus" and "Fragoletta").

Poems and Ballads furthered the greater public "speakableness" of homosexuality during these years that In Memoriam started; in persistent demand, the book went through twelve editions in as many years.

During this same period, Swinburne worked on his unfinished novel Lesbia Brandon (not published until 1952), where lesbianism is among the several "forbidden" sexual subjects.

Critics usually describe Swinburne as a heterosexual masochist, but there is no record of his involvement with a woman beyond his brief 1867-1868 affair with Adah Isaacs Menken. On the basis of this evidence, plus his early championship of Whitman and his friendship with homosexual contemporaries like Simeon Solomon and George Powell (with whom he joked in an 1871 letter about "Dean Buggeridge [and] his work on the Cities of the Plain"), it seems likely that Swinburne's eroticism was at least bisexual.

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