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Symonds, John Addington (1840-1893)  
 
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Many of these poems are taken from Symonds's private pamphlets, and, correspondingly, Symonds admitted in letters and his Memoirs that the most heterosexual of them (such as the sonnet sequence "Stella Maris" in Vagabunduli Libellus) "were mutilated [from their manuscript form] to adapt them to the female sex" and actually refer to other men.

In 1891, Symonds began publishing poems in journals that interested contemporaries knew were associated with homosexuality, first The Artist, which had taken on a definite homosexual aspect after Charles Kains-Jackson became editor in 1888, and later The Spirit Lamp, edited at Oxford by Lord Alfred Douglas.

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In addition, Symonds's last three books, all for wider audiences and all published in 1893, contain degrees of homosexual assertiveness. Three essays in the collection In the Key of Blue--"The Dantesque and Platonic Ideals of Love," "Edward Cracroft Lefroy," and "Clifton and a Lad's Love"--raise the subjects of "Hellenic instincts" and "the affection of a man for a man."

In his biography of Michelangelo, he maintains a transparent level of euphemism while working to dismantle the myth of Michelangelo's attachment to Vittoria Colonna and discussing in extensive detail Michelangelo's passionate poems and letters to Cavalieri and other men; he also reports his own discovery in the Buonarroti archives that earlier scholars had suppressed and distorted Michelangelo's letters, just as earlier editors had falsified his poems.

Symonds and Whitman

In his Walt Whitman: A Study, Symonds's contradictory discussion of the Calamus poems is the most blatant example in his widely published criticism of the strain he felt at his culture's insistence on homosexuality's "unspeakableness."

Together with his reading of the Pheadrus and the Symposium in his last year at Harrow, which gave him "the true liber amoris at last, . . . the sanction of the love which had been ruling me from childhood," Symonds's discovery of Whitman and his "love of comrades" in 1865 transformed his life, and from 1871 he pursued Whitman in correspondence about the homosexual meaning of Calamus, finally receiving in August 1890 Whitman's apparently conclusive disavowal of Symonds's "morbid inferences."

Although acknowledging this letter in his study of Whitman, and stating that "an impartial critic will [conclude] that what he calls the 'adhesiveness' of comradeship is meant to have no interblending with . . . sexual love," Symonds also persists in raising homosexual possibilities, declaring, for example, that "I am not certain whether his own feelings upon this delicate topic may not have altered since the time when 'Calamus' was first composed" and that "Whitman recognises among the sacred emotions . . . an intense, jealous, throbbing, sensitive, expectant love of man for man, . . . a love that finds honest delight in hand-touch, meeting lips, hours of privacy, close personal contact."

Symonds's Visibility as a Homosexual in His Later Life

This strand of Symonds's widely published work, together with the confidential knowledge circulating as a result of his private writings, made Symonds's homosexuality an open secret in Victorian literary and cultural circles by the time of his death.

For example, in an 1894 essay, Swinburne castigated "the cult of the calamus, as expounded by Mr. Addington Symonds and his fellow-calamites" and dubbed Symonds "The Platonic amorist of blue-breeched gondoliers who is now in Aretino's bosom."

Contrastingly, in May 1893, The Artist published a strikingly frank memorial poem, calling Symonds "comrade dear" and proclaiming "'Let men be lovers,' your voice rang clear, / 'Let men be lovers, and Truth be Truth'."

Collaborating with Havelock Ellis on Sexual Inversion

The same mixture of information spurred Havelock Ellis to inquire in a July 1891 letter about Symonds's work on "this question of Greek love in modern life." The query led ultimately to Symonds's final, posthumous, and briefly acknowledged publication, his collaboration with Ellis on Sexual Inversion.

Symonds died ten months into the project, but he had contributed the literary and historical discussions to the manuscript, as well as several of the case histories, gleaned from the many private letters he had received in response to A Problem in Modern Ethics.

When Sexual Inversion appeared, first in German translation in 1896 and then in England in 1897, Symonds was listed as coauthor; A Problem in Greek Ethics saw public print for the first time as Appendix A, and Symonds also contributed Appendix C, "Ulrichs's Views" (originally Chapter IX of A Problem in Modern Ethics).

Horrified at the book's frankness, Horatio Brown, Symonds's literary executor, withdrew his permission for Ellis to cite Symonds and attempted to buy up the entire printing for destruction.

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