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Travel Literature  
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Two generations later, Byron's school group followed a similar pattern, also having met at school and traveling together in pairs. Others, like the Baron Poellnitz, moved around from court to court, grasping hospitality and homosexual romance where they could, "having fallen in love with all the Princes . . . on the earth."

These were real-life travels; the developing novel--narratives such as Tobias Smollett's Peregrine Pickle (1751)--fictionalized such exotic travels and narrated them in minute detail because they intrigued the reading public.

The Rise of Idealized Homosexual Types

The variations on these forms of travel are noteworthy for the specific way they delineate the rise of idealized homosexual types.

For example, Johann Winckelmann, the great German aesthetician who was probably homosexual, traveled less out of curiosity than out of exotic, almost lurid, fascination with Italy. His southern haunts included Adriatic villas surrounding Venice and Cardinal Albani's sprawling villa in Rome, where he gathered with other homosocial figures such as the bisexual painter Mengs.

Others from the north gathered around the extensive collections of the Comte Caylus, the fabulously wealthy antiquarian collector and connoisseur who kissed the head of a fawn each night before going to bed and who nearly worshipped homoerotic marbles such as the heads and coins of Antinous he collected by the hundreds. Someday the travels of these figures will be chronicled in the detail they deserve without omission of the erotic component.

More generally, erotic life in Italy was remote from the firsthand experience of any northern traveler, but even Italy seemed familiar compared to the exoticism William Beckford, England's wealthiest man as he has been called, craved. Beckford was the homosexual traveler par excellence in search of exotic males: brown, brawny, hairless, deep-eyed.

He made several "grand tours" on the Continent, each time dreaming of pushing farther eastward, erotically idealizing the young men he met, sometimes drawing them, and almost always rewarding them financially for their services.

Eventually, his heart and mind were captured by the young Portuguese Gregorio Franchi, whose wife and children Beckford subsidized. Still, he yearned to push eastward, to sail down the Adriatic to Ottoman palaces and the Levant, and his best-known Gothic tale, Vathek (1786), idealizes the dreamy and still hairless young man whose common tongue speaks the universal language of love.

Beckford's Portuguese diaries depict the new homosexual type: the remote "sexual Other" whose anatomical body, native tongue, dietary and other local customs radically differ from the traveler's.

Byron, Shelley, and their circle also traveled extensively, to Switzerland, Italy, and Greece, where Byron died fighting for Greek independence.

Cross-Dressing in the Costume of the Sexual Other

Byron indulged Albanian and Turkish fantasies of the "northerner," just as Englishmen had indulged those from the south, cross-dressing in the costume of the sexual other--a symbolic act suggesting sexual transfer--and engaging in overt genital acts.

The importance of travel for Byron's homoerotic imagination, as for the affluent writer of Gothic fiction Matthew Lewis's, has only recently been understood and remains an undervalued component of his version of "Greek love."

Costume also looms large in the conceptualizations of these travelers, especially cross-dressing in the garb of the other, as the portraits of Byron in Albanian reveal: A very different type of cross-dressing from the vocational version practiced at home--for example, by Defoe's Roxana and the eighteenth-century lesbian writer and actress Charlotte Charke, both of whom cross-dressed as men.

Their version is more akin to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's donning of male garb, and in her Memoirs (1775), Charke claims that if it was scandalous to dress as a woman, it was much less so to dress as a man. It is as if the purchase of a costume were a substitution for the sexual transference itself.

The implication for homosexual transfer was apparent to Beckford: Arabian nights passed in the harem were desirable; in the company of dark-skinned, hairless boys even more exotic and pleasurable; but with Beckford cross-dressed as a Turk, still more hedonistic. By the time of his last trip abroad, Beckford had transcended the mindset, even the erotic mental landscape, associated with the Grand Tour.

Taking the Erotic Dimension of Travel for Granted

Travel has always circumscribed the domain of the erotic, but the retrieval of artifacts is a relatively recent development in history, and the link of the Grand Tour and homosexual sensibility has not been dwelled on. By the nineteenth century, though, the erotic dimension of travel was taken for granted, even if rarely discussed in public.

Cities like Paris, Rome, and Naples abounded with homosexual activity, and northern travelers knew where to find the action. The Victorian Grand Tour differed from its predecessors to the extent that homosexual travelers formally networked and made use of homosexual contacts abroad.

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