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literature

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English Literature: Nineteenth Century  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  

Edith Somerville and Violet Martin

The lesbian couple Edith Somerville (1858-1949) and Violet Martin (1863-1915), who wrote under the pseudonym of Somerville and Ross and are best known for their Irish R.M. books, published their first novel in the same year. Somerville suggests the intensity of their attachment in her 1918 memoir of Ross, Irish Memories, but a franker picture appears in the unpublished papers both women left, including 116 diary volumes and thousands of letters.

Symonds's Memoirs and A Problem in Modern Ethics

Also in 1889, Symonds began writing his pathbreaking Memoirs, the first self-conscious homosexual autobiography known to us now, which he finished just before his death in 1893 but which remained unpublished until 1984.

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In 1890, after fifteen years of friendship, Edmund Gosse (1849-1928) finally revealed his own homosexuality to Symonds, admitting in a February 24 letter, "I know of all you speak of."

In 1891, Symonds completed and privately distributed his A Problem in Modern Ethics, a continuation of the defense of homosexuality he had begun in A Problem in Greek Ethics, this time focusing on later history and literature as well as on the new sexology and ending with a set of concrete proposals for legal reform.

Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray

In the same year, Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray was published in book form. In contrast to the somewhat franker magazine version (Lippincott's, June 1890), in the novel, homosexuality is suggested rather than explicit, but the outcry about the book still centered on that issue and intensified Wilde's association with homosexuality in knowing eyes.

Lionel Johnson

In return for a copy sent by Wilde, the infatuated Lionel Johnson (1867-1902), who was Alfred Douglas's cousin, sent Wilde his Latin poem, "In Honorem Doriana Creatorisque Eius," praising the book's "apples of Sodom." Johnson's other notable homosexual poems are angry and agonized.

In 1892, having converted to Catholicism and turned against Wilde, Johnson directed a sonnet at him called "The Destroyer of a Soul" (presumably Douglas's, whom he had introduced to Wilde the previous June). In the following year, Johnson wrote what some consider his masterpiece, "The Dark Angel," rooted in anguish about his homosexuality.

Symonds's Last Year

In 1893, the year of his death, Symonds completed his Memoirs and published three books with homosexual content or implication.

In the Key of Blue, a collection of essays, contains the frank reminiscence "Clifton and a Lad's Love."

In his two-volume biography of Michelangelo, Symonds works to dismantle the myth of Michelangelo's attachment to Vittoria Colonna, while discussing in extensive detail Michelangelo's passionate poems and letters to Tommaso Cavalieri and other men.

In Walt Whitman, A Study, Symonds acknowledges Whitman's August 1890 letter to him denying any homosexual meaning in Calamus, but insinuates that Whitman's work can nevertheless be read in those terms.

Field's Underneath the Bough

Also in 1893, Michael Field (Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper) published Underneath the Bough, a collection of five "books of songs" that, especially in the third book, contain some intense, autobiographical, lesbian love poems (for example, "It was deep April," "A girl," "Constancy").

Housman's "A.J.J."

In 1893, Housman wrote "A.J.J.," a romantic elegy for Adalbert Jackson, Moses Jackson's younger brother, who had shared their London flat and with whom Housman seems to have had an affair; the poem was not published until after Housman's death.

Pater's Writings of the 1890s

Pater meanwhile had continued to insinuate homosexual content into his writings--for example, in his 1892 imaginary portrait "Emerald Uthwart," with the "Hellenic fitness" of the title character and his "antique friendship" with his schoolmate and fellow-soldier, James Stokes; in "Apollo in Picardy" of the following year, with the implied attraction of Prior Saint-Jean to the "godlike, . . . rich, warm, white limbs" of the servant Apollyon and the echoing of the Apollo-Hyacinth story in Apollyon's relationship with the novice Hyacinthus; and in his praise of Greek male sculpture in his essay "The Age of Athletic Prizemen," published in February 1894, a few months before his death ("look into, look at the curves of, the blossomlike cavity of the opened mouth").

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