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Travel Literature  
 
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The New World

Travelers to the "New World" across the Atlantic also claimed to have witnessed homosexual rites in Florida, Mexico, Brazil, and points further south, but these were allegedly more primitive than the civilized customs of the Orient. In the New World flourished cannibal rituals and voodoo ceremonies, as well as sodomy of a cruder version than anything found in the Orient.

Captain Cook and his cohorts filled pages of their logs with accounts of their erotic dalliances on Pacific beaches, often among naked young males who made no distinction between the genders.

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Predictably, a notion of the "sexual Other," remote from anything known to exist in Europe, developed. It was unnecessary to await a Herman Melville or Walt Whitman before the construction of this new sexual type who was the product of the traveler's imagination and desire more than anything anyone had actually seen.

The Grand Tour

Closer to home, parents and their sons (women did not undertake the Grand Tour) faced the practical hurdles involved in such dangerous travel. In England, the average age was sixteen to twenty, but some males postponed travel to twenty-five or even thirty.

The youth was customarily accompanied by a tutor or governor and one or more servants. Families funded the trip, which varied from a month to several years on a route normally proceeding through Belgium and Paris over the Alps and ending in Rome or one of the other Italian cities.

The travelers kept copious notes and diaries, returning with handwritten records of everything they had seen, including exotic sexual customs and practices. Their experience altered their sensibility and shaped a new moral sense in which sex and sexuality were expanded to encompass new possibilities and arrangements. As one traveler said, "never again will I be the same."

The role of the tutor or governor was seminal. Parents advertised and interviewed for the position, carefully screening the candidates for their moral and religious views. To the governors or tutors were entrusted the allocation of funds, as well as an all-embracing pastoral role.

Problems of ill health on the road or at sea required swift judgments, and conditions of living abroad could be fraught with peril. Trouble lurked everywhere--inclement weather, robbery, pestilence, even murder--for life on the road was fundamentally unpredictable.

The entourage of travelers, tutor, and servants proceeded in close quarters, as travelogues and fiction shows, often sleeping in one room and even in the same beds. The tutor regulated the itinerary and sites that could be seen (for example, the opera in Italy), as well as the amorous life of his travelers.

Few if any English parents would have approved of life in Horace Mann's Casa Manetti in Florence in the middle of the eighteenth century if they could have witnessed its activities. In Horace Walpole's version, they drank through the night, were amorous until sunrise, and slept through the hot afternoons.

Homosexual tutors and governors often made pacts of secrecy, each promising not to expose the other. Some governors had genital sex with their tutees while abroad, a more common practice than has been conceded by the polite school of cultural historians.

Even if genital activity was infrequent, the degree of among these governors was high, as is clear from the activities of the "little club" formed in Leiden, Holland, that included the pre-Romantic English poet Mark Akenside and his lawyer-lover Jeremiah Dyson, and the group of European university students they fell in with.

The diaries of tutors or governors were commonly edited on return home, often morally expurgated, and published as part of the biographical record of the travelers. Even the letters of the travelers are permeated with these erotic accounts, as in the writings of Thomas Gray and Horace Walpole (in our sense lovers as young men), some of which constitute important imaginative literature in their own right and describe the travelers' erotic curiosity and attachments.

The "Quadruple Alliance"--Horace Walpole, Thomas Gray, Richard West, and Thomas Ashton--serves as a perfect example of how the homoeroticism of travelers could affect the Grand Tour. The four had met at Eton, where they formed the deepest affections in the way schoolboys often do. Later, they took the Grand Tour together, staying away for several years, primarily in the environs of Florence.

Walpole and Gray traveled as a pair: Walpole, the richer man, paying for the more modest Gray, and traveling with a caravan of servants and governors. But after two years, they fell out in Florence for reasons that have never been understood, and Gray returned to England alone, but not before they had indulged every facet of their erotic curiosity.

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