Impossible Love and Victorian Values: J. A. Symonds and the Intellectual History of Homosexuality


The historian and critic John Addington Symonds (1840–1893) was the first thinker in Britain to develop an academic model of male homosexual identity. Previous work on Symonds has not fully understood his distinctive blend of scholarship and sexual identity; this article situates Symonds’ thinking about homosexuality within a wider context of nineteenth-century ideas about the classics, modern history, ethics, religion, and science. It argues that intellectual and ethical concerns were more fundamental to Symonds’ sense of self than sexual expression, and that they shaped his understanding of his own and others’ sexuality.