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literature

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English Literature: Nineteenth Century  
 
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Simeon Solomon

In 1871, Simeon Solomon (1841-1905) published his only piece of writing, an allegorical prose poem called "A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep," in which Love and all the attendant seraphim are male.

Symonds's Correspondence and A Problem in Greek Ethics

In the same year, Symonds wrote his first letter to Whitman and began his extensive correspondence with Horatio Brown, a homosexual former student who became his literary executor. In 1873, Symonds first drafted, but left unpublished, A Problem in Greek Ethics, his first extended defense of homosexuality, based on his reading in the Greek classics.

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Walter Pater

Studies in the History of the Renaissance by Walter Pater (1839-1894), Hopkins's favorite Oxford tutor and another friend of Simeon Solomon, appeared in the same year. In this controversial exposition of "aesthetic criticism," Pater lists "the face of one's friend" as one possible source of "exquisite passion" in his "Conclusion."

He also employs one of the commonest conventions in earlier homosexual writing, using a homosexual figure from earlier history or art to evoke the subject of homosexuality in the present.

Pater's chapters on "The Poetry of Michelangelo" and "Leonardo da Vinci" (first issued as separate essays in 1871 and 1869) seem influenced in part by that motive though he is not explicit about either's homosexuality. He is relatively more frank in his chapter on "Winckelmann" (first published in 1867), where he mentions the art historian's "affinity with Hellenism" and "romantic, fervid friendships with young men."

Edward Carpenter

Narcissus and Other Poems, an early volume by Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) containing some discernible homosexual situations, was also published in 1873. In the next year, Carpenter wrote his first letter to Whitman.

Symonds's Studies of the Greek Poets

In 1875, Symonds began his extensive correspondence with the scholar and essayist Edmund Gosse and published his Studies of the Greek Poets, Second Series, where he broached the subject of homosexuality through his brief and qualified defense of Greek in the final chapter.

It was that discussion that led Richard St. John Tyrwhitt to attack Symonds in an essay on "The Greek Spirit in Modern Literature" in the Contemporary Review two years later. This attack accuses Symonds of promoting "vices . . . which are not even named among us" and contributed to his loss of the Professorship of Poetry at Oxford.

Similar insinuations had been made about Pater, in W. H. Mallock's satire of him as the effete "Mr. Rose" in his 1876 The New Republic, and when Pater issued a second edition of the Renaissance in 1877, he omitted his controversial "Conclusion."

Edith Simcox

It was around this same time that the writer and reformer Edith Simcox (1844-1901) began her Autobiography of a Shirt Maker, a thinly disguised transcription of her private journal that focuses on the years 1876-1881 and on her passionate attachment at that time to George Eliot.

Simcox describes George Eliot as "the love-passion of my life" and declares, "I am not the least attracted to any man; I only want to love you." The 175-page manuscript has never been published.

Symonds's Translation of Michelangelo's Sonnets

In 1878, Symonds published his translation of Michelangelo's Sonnets, the first complete version in English and the first based on Gausti's accurate text of 1863, which corrected Michelangelo the Younger's heterosexualizing of the poems in his edition of 1623.

Symonds does not trumpet the homosexuality of the sonnets, but he comes closer to divulging it than anyone had before by mentioning Michelangelo the Younger's altering of the poems about "masculine beauty" and by printing the sonnets to Tommaso Cavalieri in their true, male-male, form for the first time.

Symonds's Many Moods

Also in 1878, Symonds published his first publicly distributed book of poems, Many Moods, which, cushioned by some heterosexual or sexually undifferentiated pieces, contains several ardent male-male texts about classical warrior-companions and famous classical and Biblical male pairs (for example, "Callicrates," "Love and Death," "The Lotos-Garland of Antinous," "The Meeting of David and Jonathan").

Hopkins's "The Bugler's First Communion" and "The Handsome Heart"

Hopkins had resumed writing poetry in 1875, after a nine-year silence, and in 1879, he wrote "The Bugler's First Communion," with its admiration for "mansex fine," and "The Handsome Heart," with its praise of his sacristan's "handsome face" as well as heart.

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