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Queer Lives

Men's Autobiographies from Nineteenth-Century France

William A. Peniston

Publication Year: 2008

Eight gay men wrote their autobiographies in French between 1845 and 1905;  some of them reflected on their childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, others provided brief impressions of their loves and desires. A few of them dramatized their lives following contemporary theatrical and fictional models, while others wrote for medical doctors, who used the men's writings as case studies to illustrate their theories on sexual deviance. In some instances the doctors’ extensive interpretations cannot be separated from the men's own stories, but in others the authors speak for themselves.
The remarkable autobiographies in Queer Lives, translated into English for the first time here, give present-day readers a rare glimpse into otherwise shrouded existences. They relate the experiences of a man about town, a cross-dressing entertainer, a troubled adolescent, and two fetishists, among others. The autobiographies will interest a wide audience today at a time when readers are seeking new views on the lives of ordinary men and women from the past, when gay people are looking for the roots of their communities, and when scholars are trying to understand the formation of sexual identities at a crucial moment in the history of modern Europe.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents, List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix

We wish to thank the following people for their support: Nicole Albert for conversation and insight; Monte Bohna for assistance with the translation of the Latin passages; David Deiss of Elysium Press for allowing us to scan an image from...

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pp. xi-xix

In 1770 Jean-Jacques Rousseau finished his remarkable autobiography, The Confessions, which was published shortly after his death in 1778. In it he resolved to write his life as an example of the modern individual. He claimed that he...

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Part One: The Dramatization of the Self: The Countess

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pp. 1-72

Arthur Belorget was a Parisian, born and raised in the city, the son of a domestic servant and a dressmaker. As an adolescent he became the protégé of a nobleman and as a young man he earned a living as a female impersonator and singer...

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Autobiography One: Secret Confessions of a Parisian: By Arthur W——, “The Countess” (1874)

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pp. 7-72

In the beautiful year of 1860, there lived in Paris a woman whom all gilded and gallant Paris knew. Many gentlemen flattered themselves to have received the favors of this creature, without foreseeing that this boast would later become...

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Part Two: Autobiographies as Case Studies: Doctors and Patients

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pp. 73-163

In the second half of the nineteenth century much of the discussion in print about male homosexuality in France took place in a medical context — in articles in medical journals, chapters in scholarly treatises, or papers presented to learned...

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Autobiography Two: Loves by Anonymous: In Dr. Ambroise Tardieu’s A Medical and Legal Study on Assaults against Morality (1867)

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pp. 83-86

I have frequently had the opportunity to read the letters of self-confessed pederasts, and I have noticed that they employ the most passionate language, the strangest nicknames, and the most intense images borrowed...

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Autobiography Three: Observation 1 by Anonymous: In Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot and Dr. Valentin Magnan’s Inversion of the Sexual Instinct (1881)

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pp. 87-94

The perversion of the sexual instinct is associated with many mental conditions from the childish obscenities of an old man in the throes of dementia to the appalling desecrations of corpses performed by certain impulsive madmen...

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Autobiography Four: Autobiographical Notes by Gustav L——: In Dr. Paul Garnier’s Madness in Paris (1890)

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pp. 95-100

L——, Gustave, thirty-two years old, a domestic servant charged with the attempted murder of Monsieur X——, his partner in pederasty, whom he had accused of infidelity for a long time, is a man of medium stature and of normal physical...

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Autobiography Five: Autobiographical Notes by Louis X——: In Dr. Paul Garnier’s The Fetishists (1895)

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pp. 101-114

Louis X——, twenty-six years old, is a man of letters and belongs to a rich family with numerous indications of mental instability, principally on the maternal side. One of his mother’s brothers committed suicide; they say that...

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Autobiography Six: Letter to My Parents and My Autobiography by Antonio: In Dr. André Antheaume and Dr. Léon Parrot’s A Case of Sexual Inversion (1905)

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pp. 115-128

The patient who is the subject of this article has been confined to the clinic of one of the authors after a suicide attempt that occurred under rather special circumstances. He is an adolescent, eighteen years old, whose family had recently sent him...

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Autobiography Seven: Mental Hermaphrodite and Other Autobiographical Writings By Charles Double (1905)

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pp. 129-163

The investigating magistrate, Monsieur Ihler, told me during the interrogations I underwent in his office that my feelings and psychology could never be examined carefully enough. He had understood that the heart of someone...

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Part Three: Literature, Medicine, and Self-Expression: The Novel of an Invert

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pp. 165-247

In the late 1880s the well-known author Emile Zola received several letters from a young Italian man who hoped that details from his life story would provide the naturalist novelist with the raw materials...

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Autobiography Eight: The Novel of an Invert By Anonymous (1889, 1896)

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pp. 173-247

It is to you, Sir, who are the greatest novelist of our times, who, with the eye of a scientist and an artist, perceive and paint so powerfully all the oddities, all the infamies, and all the maladies that afflict mankind...

Source Acknowledgments

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pp. 249-250


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pp. 251-270

E-ISBN-13: 9780803215733
E-ISBN-10: 0803215738

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 8 photographs
Publication Year: 2008