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  • 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.

Symonds, homosexuality, classics, ethics, education, humanism, religion, science, Victorian, Britain

On February 1, 1889, the British historian and essayist John Addington Symonds (1840–93) wrote Benjamin Jowett a letter. Jowett was the Master of Balliol College, Oxford, and Symonds’s former tutor; Symonds had been helping him to revise his popular translation of Plato’s dialogues. The letter asked how Jowett could be so ignorant of history as to regard homoerotic love described in Plato as “mainly a figure of speech.” Symonds explained what the “concrete facts” of love between men in ancient Athens could mean to modern men innately predisposed to same-sex attraction. He described the “heaven in hell” of reading about homoerotic love in Plato, then seeing it disavowed by Jowett’s commentary. He emphasized the duplicity and hypocrisy of educators who hid the truth about homoeroticism, demonstrating themselves not to have their students’ best interests at heart.1

This expression of frustration—passionate, but grounded in empirical evidence—is characteristic of Symonds’s writing about same-sex desire. Since the 1960s, scholars have richly detailed the fin-de-siècle European literary and artistic community of men who desired men, and some have [End Page 605] recognized Symonds’s significance within it. But they have focused on cultural context or sexual identity rather than on the origins of his ideas.2 Practitioners of “traditional” intellectual history have likewise breathed new life into late-Victorian intellectuals who found self-understanding in reading and scholarship. Yet those who have treated Symonds have tended either to shy away from sexuality or, in focusing on the fundamental nature of sex, to exclude the wider context.3 Though we now know much about Symonds’s cultural milieu, his distinctive blend of scholarship and sexual identity could be better understood. He was shaped by the same thinkers—Hegel, Arnold, Ranke, Whitman—and used the same intellectual tools as many others, but he stood apart in his conviction that modern thinkers had wrongly suppressed the existence of same-sex desire, and in his ability to conceive new possibilities for expressing it. By situating his ideas about homosexuality within their intellectual context, this article hopes to cast him in a new light: not as a sexual radical, but as a Victorian scholar whose subject was love.

Like most educated men of his time, Symonds began as a classicist. Taught Latin and Greek from the age of seven, he attended Harrow, where he would have encountered the Iliad, the Republic, and other canonical [End Page 606] classical texts.4 In mid-nineteenth-century Harrow, the masculine ideal of “muscular Christianity” held sway, and homoerotic sentiment was expressed through furtive sexual explorations.5 But in his last year of school, Symonds chanced upon the Symposium and the Phaedrus—and discovered paiderastia, the social institution of erotic relationships between an older and a younger elite Athenian man.6 Reverence for Plato and for the Greeks generally prepared him to read these dialogues as faithfully as the ones he had already encountered, and he found that they acknowledged a kind of desire which he lacked the words to articulate in English—he referred to it with a Greek phrase, ἔϱως τω̑ν ἀδυνάτων, the love of impossible things. As he recorded in his Memoirs, he believed himself to have discovered “the true liber amoris at last, the revelation I had been waiting for.”7 Symonds never lost his respect for the Greeks or his belief that they could be a guide to ethical public life. Seeing new erotic possibilities in the classical tradition did not mean rejecting its other aspects.8 But nor did he forget—or forgive—the hypocrisy of the system that had taught him to view Plato as the route to manliness and worldly success.

In 1858, Symonds matriculated at Balliol, entering a university consumed by philosophical, moral, and pedagogical questions.9 Debates about how to teach and learn, how to read, and how to believe in God shaped his sense that same-sex love needed to be considered on both historical and [End Page 607] moral terms. Was it more valuable, for example, to uncover the truth about texts or to impart their moral value to undergraduates? Symonds had mentors who held both views. At Balliol, he was taught by Benjamin Jowett, the pre-eminent proponent of Hellenic high culture as a progressive and civilizing influence and of Plato as a guide to all facets of life; and by T. H. Green, an idealist philosopher committed to social causes, who introduced Symonds to Hegel and led him to ponder broader moral and metaphysical questions.10 Both believed that the classics prepared young men to lead virtuous lives in the world beyond Oxford, and interpreted texts in that light. Another of Symonds’s tutors was John Conington, whose approach was more historical and philological. From Conington, in whom Symonds confided about his “impossible” desires, he may have learned the value of classical scholarship as a tool for ferreting out the truth about distant times and places.11

Oxford also hummed with debate about the role of religion in education and public life. Symonds’s Memoirs recalled, “We talked theology at breakfast parties and at wine parties, out riding and walking, in college gardens, on the river, wherever young men and their elders met together.”12 Intense discussion of theology—particularly in the wake of the publication of the controversial, theologically progressive Essays and Reviews in 1860—shared elements with the Platonic pedagogical philosophy under-girding the newly-formalized tutorial system, and even with the “Platonic doctrine of eros” Symonds had begun to explore.13 Symonds worried about the “goodness” of homoerotic desire in Hebraic as well as Hellenic terms, engaged with a religiously-minded strand of mid-Victorian thought about how to manage desires that threatened to make one lose control.

Accordingly, the final element of Symonds’s Oxford intellectual development is to be found in Matthew Arnold’s approach to criticism. The professor of poetry when Symonds was an undergraduate, Arnold was on the committee that awarded Symonds the Newdigate Prize for Poetry, and [End Page 608] it seems likely that his view of Hellenism as a progressive, civilizing influence helped to shape Symonds’s first literary success, Studies of the Greek Poets.14 Symonds used the Arnoldian language of “Light, serenity, harmony, balance, definition, σωϕϱοσύνη [moderation]” to evoke the “Greek Spirit,” which he associated with the ability to express a close relationship between aesthetics and ethics.15 Like Arnold, he believed that understanding the art, literature, and culture of ancient Greece would bring order and beauty to the modern world, and that in a fully-realized culture, the inspired, artistic, enthusiastic spirit of Hellenism would be tempered but not subsumed by the moral tenor of Hebraism.

Symonds pulled these strands together in the margins of his undergraduate copy of Gottfried Stallbaum’s commentary on the Phaedrus. Jowett dismissed the love between men depicted in the dialogue as “a figure of speech”;16 Symonds’s marginalia show him testing this claim. He underlines the passage in which Socrates speaks of the lover’s transformation upon beholding the beautiful boy he loves,17 but also highlights Stallbaum’s comments on Socrates’s enumeration of the dangers of loving too irrationally and uncontrollably. Next to Socrates’s description of love as mania he writes, “How can any one in their senses think that what they want, when labouring in this disease, can be good?”18 For someone taught to respect the Plato of the Laws and the Republic as the guide to virtue, who then found himself reading exaltations of beautiful boys amidst a culture that denied them, Socrates’s discussion of mania must have been troubling. Yet Symonds did not skirt these unsettling passages as Jowett did. His marginalia show him trying to understand them in context: how a lover might exercise moderation, preventing his passion from spiraling out of control; how one might put love of beautiful boys to virtuous use. It makes sense to read Symonds’s marginal question not merely as rhetorical, but as the start of a genuine search for possibility and truth that would occupy his life for years to come.

Other classicists found a guide to their homoerotic desires in Plato, but responded differently. The Eton master William Johnson Cory wrote [End Page 609] widely-read poetry that consigned idealized homoeroticism to an unrecoverable classical past, as inaccessible as golden youth to the old.19 Symonds experimented with Cory-style elegiacs, but he resolved that scholarship could recover the past, and could offer clues about how to live in the present.20 Combining Jowett’s and Conington’s approaches to classics, Hegel’s philosophy of history, a determination to ascertain foundations for ethics, and Arnold’s presentation of culture (especially through the critical essay) as a living thing that could shape those ethics, Symonds came to believe that the historian could reconstruct—and the public learn from—the spirits of past ages.21

This is most apparent in Symonds’s seven-volume history of the Renaissance in Italy.22 Unlike his Oxford contemporary Walter Pater, whose Studies in the History of the Renaissance highlighted homoerotically-inclined artists’ struggle against the Weltgeist, Symonds argued that examination of writers, artists, scholars, and key political figures and events could yield understanding of “the attainment of self-conscious freedom by the human spirit manifested in the European races.”23 He sought to ascertain why intellectual and artistic endeavor flourished in Italy beginning in the fourteenth century; elements of continuity between the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and modernity; the role of Christianity in intellectual and cultural life; and the writers and artists who best embodied the Zeitgeist.He used a range of primary and secondary sources—though most of them were printed and easily available in Britain—and his own observations of Italian art and architecture. Like other English scholars of the period, Symonds often synthesized or adapted the work of German and French scholars who had done more extensive research. Yet he was one of the first people to [End Page 610] write history in this style in English, and one of its most comprehensive practitioners.

Symonds identified his approach as “Cultur geschichte [sic],” indicating that he situated it with respect to historiographical developments on the Continent.24 In the first half of the nineteenth century, academic history was transformed when German scholars like Leopold von Ranke created new methods and genres, combining intensive study of sources with experiments in narrative. They tried to reveal the past “as it really was.” Symonds’s Renaissance reflects these developments. Arguing that the “Spirit of the Renaissance” pursued a self-conscious process of becoming modern that was visible in many areas of cultural expression, it had much in common with the work of Ranke’s student Jacob Burckhardt, particularly his Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien (1860), the preeminent example of Kulturgeschichte.25 Symonds claimed that he did not come across Burckhardt’s work until he was writing his later volumes, but there are many parallels.26 Both focus on the Renaissance as a period of developing freedom and self-realization, a step toward modernity—though Symonds saw this as an unqualifiedly progressive teleology, while Burckhardt believed that modern individual liberty was not so developed as it had been in the Renaissance. Both focused on individuals and their ideas and emotions rather than on institutions and social structures, and both were interested more in how Renaissance Italians thought than what they did.27

Symonds’s civilizing teleology also had roots in the liberal English historical tradition: whether represented by Thomas Arnold’s Anglican work or by George Grote’s utilitarianism-influenced History of Greece. In Studies of the Greek Poets, Symonds concurs with many of Grote’s assumptions about the martial prowess and the moral virtues of Periclean Athens, and [End Page 611] attempts to identify specific historical precedents to the liberal civilization enjoyed by Victorian people. Like Arnold, he takes seriously the contributions of Judeo-Christianity to the Geist of the Renaissance and therefore to modern European culture.28 Symonds’s method is a synthesis of Kulturgeschichte and liberal English historiography—and after all, both Matthew Arnold’s criticism and Ranke’s history entailed seeing things “as they really are,” applying a standard of empirical objectivity to matters of humanistic inquiry.29

Scholars have related Symonds’s interest in the Italian Renaissance directly to his sexuality.30 The homoeroticism in the Renaissance, however, is just one part of a thorough overview of Italian culture from the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries; Symonds took seriously the need for “[i]mpartial clearness of judgment” and “methodic scrupulousness” in historical research. Still, he did use history to address the questions about “Greek love” he had first asked in the margins of Stallbaum’s commentary. In 1873, he wrote an essay called A Problem in Greek Ethics in order to explore ideas he was unable to address in more public forums.31 It documents how love between men was practiced in ancient Greece, attempts to determine ethical principles governing same-sex sexual behavior, and shows that such principles varied across times and cultures. He thought it “one of the few adequate works of scholarship I can call my own,” and it remains one of his most compelling.32 [End Page 612]

Symonds uses literary sources to argue that the Greeks alone in Western history distinguished between “vulgar” and “heroic” forms of “masculine passion,” subjecting them to ethical scrutiny.33 His claim rests on Pausanias’s speech in Plato’s Symposium, which distinguishes what Jowett’s translation terms the “common” (πάνδημος) and “heavenly” (οὐςάνιος) loves—the one carnal, the other spiritual.34 To Symonds, Pausanias was suggesting that aesthetic appreciation of the male form was less important than the spiritual and social purpose behind it—sexual gratification was secondary. Symonds argues that his own culture, by denying same-sex love public recognition, reduced homoeroticism to merely sexual contact. He praises love between men guided by “modest self-restraint,” and the sublimation of sexual desire to intellectual, spiritual, and comradely ends.35 This is the resolution of the title “problem”: the Greeks valued paiderastia because it was a force for ethical good. Then, by analyzing the oration of Aeschines against Timarchus, an Athenian citizen accused of having prostituted himself in his youth,36 Symonds illustrates the practical application of Pausanias’s distinction: Athenian law separated honorable love between men from love that was dishonorable because it involved the exchange of money or the use of another’s body purely for sex. He also argued that Athenians did not agree about the rules for managing homoerotic behavior, a conclusion that escaped writers who relied only on idealizing literary sources.37

Symonds’s citations from canonical authors implicitly question whether Oxford “Greats” could teach morality while pretending paiderastia did not exist. His quotation of Jowett’s translations shows his interest in bending conventional Hellenism to the inclusion of a particular kind of masculine desire. Challenging Jowett’s dismissal of Pausanias’s speech as “sophistic and confused in view,” Symonds writes that it “is precisely on this account that it is valuable”: if readers approached the classics with the right critical and historical eye, they would find the truth about antiquity’s views on homosexuality. The Greeks’ confusion and contradictions could teach as much as their ideals.38 The essay concludes, “It is not imaginable that humanity, after the discipline of the last eighteen centuries, should revert to the conditions of Greek life”; the moral improvement promised [End Page 613] by Pausanias’s “heavenly love” had “failed.”39 Yet, by translating his undergraduate questions of the Phaedrus into a historical investigation, Symonds transformed Greek love into something he could consider analytically, drawing connections between past and present.

In 1878, suffering from tuberculosis and seeking to improve his health, Symonds moved his family to the Swiss Alps, where they would live until his death in 1893. The move isolated him from many developments in English thought, but provided greater access to European books and ideas—notably the burgeoning German-language sexological literature.40 Symonds believed in science’s ability to advance human understanding, and seized upon the literature on “sexual inversion,” which, he felt, was “just beginning to receive the attention it deserves.”41 He began to translate, popularize, and reinterpret Sexualwissenschaft in the same way he had Kulturgeschichte. He valued and criticized the methods of sexologists in equal parts, but one point was clear: cultural history provided empirical evidence that men had loved men in the past; sexology showed that they still did. Working same-sex desire into a sense of self was no longer hypothetical. In this period, the phrase “ἔϱως τω̑ν ἀδυνάτων” dropped out of Symonds’s writing.

In 1890, inspired in part by Karl Heinrich Ulrichs’s efforts to write frankly about the condition of the “Urning” in modern Germany, Symonds undertook A Problem in Modern Ethics, which surveyed recent writing on “sexual inversion” in a variety of genres.42 He sent copies to readers from the explorer and Kama Sutra translator Richard Burton to Henry James, drawing theorists of inversion into an international conversation notable for appealing rigorously to humanistic and scientific fact alike.43 Symonds’s use of the term “sexual inversion” is telling: an English rendering of conträre Sexualempfindung, it was the standard medical expression for the [End Page 614] condition of a man who desires men. Symonds thought it the only “neutral nomenclature” for a condition widely believed to be immoral.44 This faith in the ability of the scientific profession to circumvent prejudice suffuses Modern Ethics. Most of the essay is devoted to disproving “vulgar errors” about inverts’ depravity, criminality, and tendency to pedophilia, and to highlighting pieces of the medical literature that had addressed such issues particularly poorly or well.

Symonds’s footnotes indicate the range of his reading in non-English-language literature that, due to obscenity law, was not readily available in Britain.45 When his English audience read his analyses of writers like Ulrichs and Richard von Krafft-Ebing, they may have been encountering them for the first time. Symonds believed that such literature could demystify inversion and reframe the public discourse around pathology instead of criminality.46 He disagreed with Ulrichs about the nature of classical homoerotic desire, but sided with him in championing positivist methods—using data from the case histories in Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis or his and his friends’ experiences to test sexologists’ claims.47 He saw enough “technical value” in sexologists’ different categories of inversion to create tables helping the reader to visualize their taxonomies, and to echo them when dividing ethical from unethical exercises of same-sex desire.48

Nonetheless, Modern Ethics’ introduction frames Symonds’s method as historical.49 He uses comparisons to antiquity and the Renaissance to criticize contemporary prejudice against inverts, and to discredit the work of scientists with a limited historical sense.50 He also highlights instances in which science is insufficient to understand inversion: whether in the case of “taste, fashion, preference” (which he believed could affect tendency to [End Page 615] inversion), or when castigating Richard Burton for his claim that same-sex sexual relations in the Arab world or the South Pacific are caused by geographical and climatic factors.51 He criticizes sexologists’ inability to perceive cultural differences, and his classical and historical background is evident when he structures his explication of Ulrichs’s theory of “Urning-love” on Platonic lines.52 Writing as a sympathetic observer of rather than a participant in the sexological discourse, Symonds introduced complexity, historicism, and emotion to sexual science.53

Gradually, this work reshaped his approach. In 1892, he decided to collaborate with the radical writer and doctor Havelock Ellis on a study that would eventually be published, four years after Symonds’s death, as Sexual Inversion.54 They corresponded at length.55 Symonds promised to provide historical material and suggested that Ellis might “criticize the crudest modern medical . . . theories.”56 However, the collaborators differed on method, tone, and scope. Ellis stuck to the then-standard “morbidity” hypothesis, while Symonds held that inversion was a deviation from the norm, not an illness. Neurosis in inverts, he argued, might stem from the strain of having to hide one’s inversion from society.57 They disagreed about the role of history. Symonds initially proposed that the first half of the book be a history of inversion from ancient Greece to the present.58 While Ellis admired Symonds’s erudition, he remained unconvinced that the past necessarily illuminated the present, and worried that historical discussion would distract from claims about sexual inversion as a physiological or neurological phenomenon.59 By the time Symonds died, the historical material had been reduced to a brief preface and a revised version of A Problem in Greek Ethics, printed as an appendix to the main text.60 Finally, [End Page 616] Ellis had to exhort Symonds to remember the ladies. Ellis’s wife’s affair with a woman had prompted him to undertake the project, and so he sought some balance with Symonds’s similarly self-driven interest in male inversion, asking Symonds to add discussion of female inversion to his Greek section.61 Ellis provided all the data on female inversion: for instance, the case histories of the writer Vernon Lee and her long-term partner Mary Robinson, as well as of his wife and her friends.62

Indeed, one thing on which the collaborators could agree was the collection of case histories from a range of British inverts. At first, Ellis had to persuade Symonds to grant these equal weight with historical and literary sources, pointing out that the existing literature did not include cases from Britain.63 Symonds took the point, and provided his own history and those of friends and acquaintances, drawing up a standardized questionnaire to aid the collection of data.64 Gradually he concluded that contemporary material was as vital as classical: less-informed sexologists, he declared, “not only do not know Ancient Greece, but they do not know their own cousins and club-mates.”65 Symonds and Ellis cobbled together a list of 52 famous men whom they judged to be inverts—”many of them honourably known in Church, State, Society, Art, & Letters,” but the only ones in the country whom they could definitively claim.66 Ellis wrote to the socialist and self-identified Urning Edward Carpenter for help, and he provided his own case and those of working-class men from the north of England to whom Symonds had no access.67 The book eventually contained 36 cases; Case 17 was Symonds’s own.68

The book went to press with Symonds’s name after Ellis’s on the title page, but Symonds’s widow and friends expressed reservations. Symonds’s literary executor asked Ellis to remove Symonds’s name, and bought up the first edition.69 Subsequent editions bore no visible trace of Symonds’s involvement. When Henry Sidgwick reviewed the second edition in 1899, [End Page 617] he called it a “solid and valuable contribution” to sexual science, but did not mention its co-author, one of his closest friends.70

Yet Symonds’s stamp on Sexual Inversion remains, not least because his urging likely led Ellis to see the study to fruition.71 Thanks to Symonds’s criticisms of morbidity theory, Sexual Inversion abandoned the organizing divide between “normal”/procreative and “abnormal”/non-procreative sex acts and sexualities characteristic of earlier sexology. Symonds was also behind the book’s case for reform of Britain’s “gross indecency” law—a bold claim so soon after Oscar Wilde’s conviction under it.72 Above all, thanks to Symonds, the first edition bridges the divide between scientific and humanistic ways of understanding sexuality. Symonds’s close reading of Leaves of Grass, addressing the nature of Walt Whitman’s “manly love,” sits alongside Ellis’s attempts to make precise determinations as to, for instance, the “first appearance of homosexual instinct.”73 Symonds significantly revised Greek Ethics to fit the generic constraints of a scientific text.74 In addition to composing a section on love between women, translating Greek quotations for a non-classicist audience, and excising some of the most ribald anecdotes, Symonds added a new introduction that addressed “medical psychologists and jurists,” stressing that historical analysis was intrinsic to a neutral, tolerant perspective on inversion.75 He also deleted the conclusion in which he argued that, “It is not imaginable that humanity . . . should revert to the conditions of Greek life.”76 Perhaps the range of case studies he had gathered resembled enough “the conditions of Greek life” to change his mind. No longer the romantic ideal of “impossible” love, it was something that had really happened in history and continued to happen between contemporary men.

Symonds’s contributions to Sexual Inversion complicate Ellis’s medical view of homosexuality, particularly his claims that homosexuality is congenital (not cultural), and that it is usually connected to gender inversion.77 [End Page 618]

Yet the interaction between Ellis’s and Symonds’s approaches is multidirectional, and Symonds cannot be enlisted as a resistance fighter against an oppressive medico-legal discourse.78 Symonds saw that science could help him to elucidate the origins and the evolution of same-sex sexual behavior, but that it could not answer all of his questions. He insisted on giving history its due weight in Sexual Inversion because an all-encompassing scientistic vision would “render the universe a machine.”79 A theory of homosexuality needed to address complex questions about the nature of love, the management of desire, and their relevance to the general good. This required reading texts carefully and seeing people as individuals with inner lives and human fallibility.

Symonds’s views on such matters were unlike those of his friends who were more engaged with new epistemological developments. Comparing himself to Henry Sidgwick, he wrote that “[h]e talks of sex, out of legal codes, & blue books [government reports]. I talk of it, from human documents, myself, the people I have known. . . .”80 The case studies Symonds contributed to Sexual Inversion, which illuminated and particularized Ellis’s diagnostic statements, were such “human documents.” Symonds believed that the public should care about inverts and their ethical quandaries precisely because, as he quoted from Terence, “what is human is alien to no human being.”81 He displayed the same impulse in his Memoirs, which—weighted less towards sex than the abridged published edition suggests—make clear that his sense of homosexual identity had more to do with self-knowledge than with sex.82 Like the life-writing of other Victorian intellectuals who formed identity through scholarship, such as the Oxford don Mark Pattison, they illustrate how reading, friendships, and family shaped Symonds’s development—even of his sexual identity.83 In the [End Page 619] twentieth century, life-writing may have had a special significance for homoerotically-inclined men seeking to understand themselves; in a culture that prized narratives of moral progress, it had a more universal appeal.84

But to imagine how homoerotic love might be part of a wider, chivalric ideal, Symonds needed to consider the future instead of the past.85 He turned to Walt Whitman, whose homoerotic “Calamus” poems he had discovered as a student. Many English reformers were inspired by Whitman’s vision of equality, but Symonds was particularly enthusiastic about “the manly love of comrades.” He expressed his admiration in fan letters (in which he wrote of “longing,” “burning,” “panting,” and “the inevitable shafts of your searching intuition”) and a critical book called Walt Whitman: A Study.86

Symonds mythologized the poet as a prophet “like Christ in the Gospels,” whose teachings of comradeship, democracy, and love he proposed, evangelist-like, to spread.87 Like many English readers, Symonds was attracted to the spiritual elements of Whitman’s worldview. The democracy he wrote about in patriotic, pro-Union poems became to Symonds “a new and more deeply religious way of looking at mankind.”88 The “mystic value” with which Whitman invested the body could form the basis of an idealistic moral framework for “an intense, jealous, throbbing, sensitive, expectant love of man for man . . . a saving and ennobling aspiration” with as much value as chivalry.89 Symonds’s late writing about Whitman evinces a clear decision to interpret “the gospel of Comradeship” as the bedrock of Whitman’s heterodox oeuvre.

Symonds’s marginalia in his copy of the 1884 edition of Leaves of Grass show him developing this reading.90 The first poems feature sparse underlinings, but they become thicker on the page as Symonds moves on to “Song of Myself,” drawing attention especially to passages that invoke [End Page 620] sentiments of pantheistic naturalism or celebrate the industry and physical beauty of working people. The underlined passages become longer, Symonds seemingly more involved in the reading process, until—skipping over the “Enfans d’Adam” poems about man’s love for woman, often believed too shocking for women’s and children’s eyes, and cut out of Symonds’s copy91—they climax in “Calamus,” a third of the way through the book. They taper off quickly, but “Calamus” is covered in pencil scribble. On an earlier reading of Leaves of Grass, Symonds had been more shocked by graphic representations of heterosexual sex in “Children of Adam” than compelled by the “love of comrades” in “Calamus.”92 But by 1884, it seems that he placed “Calamus” at the heart of the book, seeing it as the key to the text.

Symonds states this explicitly in a note on the first page of “Calamus.” He writes that Whitman “clearly thinks” the cycle “the most original and important part of his prophecy. Its theme is what he calls ‘adhesiveness,’ the fraternity of human beings in comradeship” which “has the intensity of passionate emotion.”93 That Whitman thought “comradeship” the most important aspect of his work is not apparent in hundreds of pages that touch on the bodies and souls of men and women in reasonably equal measure. But since Whitman’s statements about “adhesiveness” echoed Symonds’s own conception of a “higher” same-sex love, he hastened to write Whitman into his history of homosexual ethics.

To this end, many of the marginalia explicitly connect “love of comrades” to a longer tradition. Symonds reads “When I Peruse the Conquer’d Fame”—which contrasts great men of American history and politics with a transhistorical “brotherhood of lovers”—as being about the more historically specific “Envy for the Comrades of the past—Hellas!”94 He compares “Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances” to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29.95 He connects Whitman’s praise of the comradeship of Civil War soldiers to classical legends about groups of military comrades such as the Sacred Band of Thebes.96 Despite his interest in science, Symonds sought a theory of homosexuality that could unite mythical ancient heroes with modern American poets. [End Page 621]

Symonds sent Whitman letters for twenty years, prodding him about the “true meaning” of “Calamus.” When Whitman proved evasive, Symonds grew more insistent. In 1890, he asked, “In your conception of Comradeship, do you contemplate the possible intrusion of those semi-sexual emotions and actions which no doubt do occur between men?” Whitman professed shock: “That the Calamus part has ever allowed the possibility of such construction as mentioned is terrible.” He “disavowed” such “morbid inferences,” which, he insisted, “seem damnable.”97

Symonds thanked Whitman—and enclosed a long discourse on Greek love—but never wrote again.98 He felt obliged to clarify that Whitman “has nothing to do with anomalous, abnormal, vicious, or diseased forms of the emotion which males entertain for males.”99 Critics have suggested that Whitman was trying to defend himself against the dangerous allegation of homosexuality.100 But it is not clear that this allegation would have had cultural resonance for Whitman, damning or otherwise. Instead, Whitman may have felt that Symonds’s project shared no ground with his poetry and its contemporary political significance. Symonds asked Whitman to agree that his democratic ideal represented both a throwback to “ancient Hellas” and a way out of the inconceivability of ethical male-male sexual relationships in the modern world.101 But while Symonds believed that classical Athens should matter in modern America, Whitman sought to sever such ties. The working-class poet, who knew no Greek or Latin, who believed that “the main purport of these States is to found a superb friendship, exalté, previously unknown,” did not see eye-to-eye with Symonds on the nature of comradeship past, present, and future.102 Whitman’s experience as a Civil War nurse, central to his life, was lost on Symonds; in Whitman’s America, “chivalry” was a value of the Southern plantation aristocracy—to [End Page 622] whom classical Athens was an example of a successful slaveholding society.103 Symonds began their correspondence by telling Whitman that he was a classically-educated university man, but his Greek ethics would have meant little to Whitman, whose education ended at high school and who dismissed the European canon for having been produced under undemocratic conditions.104

Furthermore, Whitman referred to Calamus-love as “Adhesiveness,” in contrast to the “Amativeness” of sexual love: terms borrowed from phrenology, of which he was a celebrated follower.105 Accordingly, he would have held that Amativeness and Adhesiveness are two of thirty-three “organs” present in every person. To Symonds, the Calamus-lover was a particular type of man, who could trace his lineage to Achilles and Socrates. To Whitman, the Calamus-lover was any person, who necessarily also had the potential for Amativeness and thirty-one other realms of human feeling.106 It is not surprising that Whitman was unenthusiastic about Symonds’s efforts to commit him to a statement on “Calamus” that could be taken up by English self-identified inverts as a badge of group unity. He had no concept of sexual orientation as immutable and intrinsic to one’s character, while between Sexual Inversion and the Memoirs, it seems that Symonds adopted this view in his final years. Yet when Whitman was on his deathbed, Symonds wrote to his amanuensis Horace Traubel, “I might have been a mere English gentleman, had I not read Leaves of Grass in time.”107 Even after their estrangement, Symonds acknowledged Whitman’s contribution to his conviction that the love of comrades was possible after all.

When Symonds was an adolescent, homoeroticism was visible, from the dormitories of Harrow to sex scandals reported in the newspapers, as crude physical contact: nowhere as a form of love. A life’s intellectual work enabled him to see it in different, positive terms: as the spiritually enriching [End Page 623] passion described by Plato that had really existed in classical Athens, analogous to the chivalric love of Italian poets—which, with Whitman’s help, could be translated into a modern, secular idiom. Though Symonds did not rule out physical contact, he accorded homosexuality health, morality, and a place among other Victorian values by putting “celestial” before physical pleasures. The tools for doing this—the close reading of historical documents, Arnold’s articulation of the connection between Hellenism and Hebraism, the discoveries of sexologists, Whitman’s visionary attitude—were widely known. But it took Symonds to render these connections explicit; in his letters, private manuscripts, and texts such as Greek Ethics and Modern Ethics, these lines of thought provided a basis not only for the erotically-charged homosociality of public school and university, but also for calls for sodomy-law reform and—perhaps more importantly—self-identification as “homosexual,” a stance which, by the end of his life, he found it possible to take.

Symonds’s life is not a coming-out story. His attempts at same-sex relationships were fraught with class inequality and exploitation; he saw no reason why they should negate his marriage; he never united sex with love as Edward Carpenter or, later, E. M. Forster did. Instead, his life is a story about humanistic study, self-development, and a historian’s interest in bringing “human documents” to light. A modern reader might find no shortage of limits to his philosophy of love, but there is something moving about an erotic ideal so powerful, spiritually-driven, and pure that Victorian culture, far from considering it a disease, would have to admit it, too, as a bearer of “sweetness and light.”

When Symonds died, his widow and friends destroyed the majority of his private papers. They ensured that his Memoirs manuscript was locked securely in the London Library, inaccessible even to his own daughters.108 Yet many younger thinkers had already encountered his work, and his influence upon them is clear. Oscar Wilde’s understanding of love between men, for instance, owes much to Symonds, as evidenced by his testimony in his “gross indecency” trial. When the prosecutor asked Wilde to explain a line from a poem that his lover Alfred Douglas had published in an undergraduate magazine, “I am the Love that dare not speak its name,” Wilde is said to have replied, “[it] is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very [End Page 624] basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect.”109

In 1873, while at Trinity College Dublin, Wilde read the first volume of Studies of the Greek Poets; in 1876, revising for his Oxford Finals, he heavily underlined the second, which contained Symonds’s first published exposition of the parallels between Greek love and chivalry.110 He copied into his commonplace book many passages from Greek Poets, as well as from Symonds’s Renaissance and his biography of Shelley, including some that made reference to “ἔϱως τω̑ν ἀδυνάτων.”111 In his examination papers, Wilde made the same idiosyncratic comparison as Symonds, of Aeschylus to Shakespeare and Whitman.112 His approach to the classics and his first forays into prose were both shaped by his reading of Symonds.113 Later, Symonds corresponded with both Wilde and Douglas, and submitted a poem to Douglas’s undergraduate magazine The Spirit Lamp.114 Wilde probably kept up with Symonds’s work, reading Modern Ethics (which circulated widely among English Uranians) and perhaps Greek Ethics as well. In the revised manuscript of “The Portrait of Mr. W.H.” that Wilde completed in 1893, he cited Symonds’s biography of Michelangelo in support of the claim that “the Platonic conception of love [is] nothing if not spiritual, and beauty [is] a form that finds its immortality within the lover’s soul.”115 If Wilde’s testimony in his gross indecency trial sounded similar, perhaps he was consciously paraphrasing Symonds, just as he had in his Greek literature paper. [End Page 625]

Wilde’s conviction cast a veil of silence over other thinkers about homosexuality, who feared they would meet the same fate. Nevertheless, avowedly homosexual subcultures were beginning to coalesce, some of whose central figures took inspiration from Symonds. Edward Carpenter began to draft his Homogenic Love following his correspondence with Symonds, and its ideas about the place of Greek love in the modern world owed much to him.116 E.M. Forster recorded in his “Locked Diary” that Symonds’s writing helped him to construct his own sense of self.117 Forster understood his homosexuality to be rooted in “necessary bodily expression” rather than in self-knowledge.118 But like Symonds, he believed he had something essential in common with men across classes, races, times, and places, and understood living as homosexual and living in general as profoundly ethical projects. The entry in the “Locked Diary” suggests that Symonds’s life story helped Forster to relate homosexual “minorism”—conceiving of himself as part of a minority group—to universal love and connection. By the 1920s, Symonds’s ideas had become part of a recognizably modern sense of sexual identity.

Still, Jowett wrote Symonds’s epitaph, praising his scholarly industry and care for his friends.119 Not only self-avowed Uranians could talk about the virtues of comradeship. After all, the thinkers who captivated Symonds were concerned primarily with universals: with the forces that shape civilizations and with how to think correctly and act rightly, whoever one might be and wherever and whenever one might live. Symonds believed that homosexuality could restore chivalry to the modern age, but he thought doing so would benefit all civilization—not only, or even primarily, homosexuals. His project was not so much about identity politics as it was about love, even when it seemed at its most impossible or improbable. The questions he weighed about how to moderate one’s desires and negotiate the ethics of partnership, and his embodiment of the same impulse to understand the world that drove scientists like Darwin and Lyell, help us to fill out what we know about what sex meant to the Victorians. While sexual freedom as we now understand it was no central aspect of Victorian [End Page 626] culture, a different kind of liberty—that of self-discovery and self-development—was all-important. Symonds’s life remains a case study: not only of the normal and socially beneficial nature of male homosexuality, as he might have wished, but also of the complexity of Victorian understandings of emotions and of relations between people. [End Page 627]

Emily Rutherford
Columbia University.


1. Herbert Schueller and Robert Peters, eds., The Letters of John Addington Symonds (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1967–69), 3:345–47. Hereafter Letters.

2. Jeffrey Weeks, Coming Out: Homosexual Politics in Britain from the Nineteenth Century to the Present (London: Quartet, 1977), and Weeks, Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality since 1800 (London: Longman, 1981); Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985); Wayne Koestenbaum, Double Talk: The Erotics of Male Literary Collaboration (New York: Routledge, 1989); Richard Dellamora, Masculine Desire: The Sexual Politics of Victorian Aestheticism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990); Alan Sinfield, The Wilde Century: Effeminacy, Oscar Wilde, and the Queer Movement (London: Cassell, 1994); Jonathan N. Katz, Love Stories: Sex Between Men before Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001); H.G. Cocks, Nameless Offences: Homosexual Desire in the Nineteenth Century (London: I.B. Tauris, 2003); Morris Kaplan, Sodom on the Thames: Sex, Love, and Scandal in Wilde Times (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005); Heike Bauer, English Literary Sexology: Translations of Inversion, 1860–1930 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); Stefano Evangelista, British Aestheticism and Ancient Greece: Hellenism, Reception, Gods in Exile (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); Sean Brady, Masculinity and Male Homosexuality in Britain, 1861–1913 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); and Brady, John Addington Symonds and Homosexuality: A Critical Edition of Sources (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

3. G.P. Gooch, History and Historians in the Nineteenth Century (London: Longmans, 1955); Richard Jenkyns, The Victorians and Ancient Greece (Oxford: Blackwell, 1980); Frank Turner, The Greek Heritage in Victorian Britain (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981); Whitney Davis, Queer Beauty: Sexuality and Aesthetics from Winckelmann to Freud (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010); cf. John Pemble, ed., John Addington Symonds: Culture and the Demon Desire (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000).

4. M.L. Clarke, Classical Education in Britain, 1500–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959), 74–97; Christopher Tyerman, A History of Harrow School 1324–1991 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 249–59.

5. Phyllis Grosskurth, ed., The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 97–98, 111–15, hereafter Memoirs; David Newsome, Godliness and Good Learning: Four Studies on a Victorian Ideal (London: John Murray, 1961), 216; Stefan Collini, Public Moralists: Political Thought and Intellectual Life in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 170–96; Linda Dowling, Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian Oxford (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), 32–66; Kaplan, Sodom on the Thames, 102–65.

6. Kenneth Dover, Greek Homosexuality (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978); David Halperin, One Hundred Years of Homosexuality (New York: Routledge, 1990); cf. James Davidson, The Greeks and Greek Love: A Radical Reappraisal of Homosexuality in Ancient Greece (London: Orion, 2007).

7. Symonds, Memoirs, 99.

8. Cf. Dowling, Hellenism and Homosexuality, 76–81; Paul Deslandes, Oxbridge Men: British Masculinity and the Undergraduate Experience, 1850–1920 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005).

9. M.G. Brock and M.C. Curthoys, eds., The History of the University of Oxford, Vol. VI (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997); Dowling, Hellenism and Homosexuality; A.J. Engel, From Clergyman to Don: The Rise of the Academic Profession in Nineteenth-century Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon, 1983); Heather Ellis, Generational Conflict and the University Reform: Oxford in the Age of Revolution (Leiden: Brill, 2012).

10. Symonds to Graham Dakyns and Henry Sidgwick, Letters, 2:51, 2:388; Sandra den Otter, British Idealism and Social Explanation: A Study in Late-Victorian Thought (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996), 36–50.

11. Jenkyns, Victorians and Ancient Greece, 247–53; Christopher Stray, Classics Transformed: Schools, Universities, and Society in England, 1830–1960 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), and Oxford Classics: Teaching and Learning, 1800–2000 (London: Duckworth, 2007). See also Tom Stoppard, The Invention of Love (London: Faber and Faber, 1997).

12. Symonds, Memoirs, 244.

13. Frederic Hedge, ed., Essays and Reviews (London: Longman, 1861); Ieuan Ellis, Seven Against Christ: A Study of “Essays and Reviews” (Leiden: Brill, 1980).

14. John Addington Symonds, Studies of the Greek Poets, 2 vols. (1873; London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1873, 1876).

15. Symonds, Letters, 2:299; Symonds, “The Genius of Greek Art,” in Studies of the Greek Poets, 1: 412–38.

16. Benjamin Jowett, The Dialogues of Plato Translated into English with Analyses and Introductions, vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1892), 486.

17. Phaedrus 251–52.

18. Platonis Phaedrus, ed. Godofredus Stallbaum (Gotha and Erfurt: Hennings, 1857), Morgan Library (hereafter ML), 125969, iv, 26.

19. William Johnson Cory, Ionica (London: George Allen, 1858); Timothy d’Arch Smith, Love in Earnest: Some Notes on the Lives and Writings of English ‘Uranian’ Poets from 1889 to 1930 (London: Routledge, 1970); Kaplan, Sodom on the Thames, 102–65. See also William Shuter, “Pater, Wilde, Douglas and the Impact of ‘Greats,’ “ English Literature in Transition 46 (2003): 250–78; Stefano Evangelista, “ ‘Lovers and Philosophers At Once’: Aesthetic Platonism in the Victorian Fin de Siècle,” Yearbook of English Studies 36 (2006): 230–44.

20. “In Memoriam Arcadiae,” 1859, ML 225089; “Friendship, An Idyll,” August 1859, Bristol University Library (hereafter BUL) DM393/1/5. Cf. Thomas Wright and Donald Mead, “Introduction” to Oscar Wilde: The Women of Homer (London: Oscar Wilde Society, 2008), 10.

21. Peter Holliday, “Symonds and the Model of Ancient Greece,” in Pemble, Culture and the Demon Desire, 86–87.

22. John Addington Symonds, Renaissance in Italy, 7 vols. (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1875–86).

23. Symonds, Renaissance in Italy, 1:4.

24. Symonds, Letters, 2:359–60.

25. Jacob Burckhardt, Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien (Basel: Schweighauser’schen Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1860). On Burckhardt’s Hegelianism, see E.H. Gombrich, In Search of Cultural History (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969); on Ranke and Burckhardt, see Felix Gilbert, “Jacob Burckhardt’s Student Years: The Road to Cultural History,” Journal of the History of Ideas 47 (1986): 249–74.

26. Symonds, Age of the Despots, 1:viii; W.K. Ferguson, The Renaissance in Historical Thought: Five Centuries of Interpretation (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1948), 198–203; cf. John Hale, England and the Italian Renaissance: The Growth of Interest in its History and Art (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), 141–42.

27. Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy, trans. S.G.C. Middlemore (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1890); Ferguson, Renaissance in Historical Thought; Gooch, History and Historians, 529–33; Peter Bowler, The Invention of Progress: Victorians and the Past (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989), 44; Yvonne Ivory, The Homosexual Revival of Renaissance Style, 1850–1930 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 13–48.

28. George Grote, A History of Greece, from the Earliest Period to the Close of the Generation Contemporary With Alexander the Great (London: John Murray, 1869); Thomas Arnold, Lectures on Modern History (Oxford: J.H. Parker, 1842); Duncan Forbes, The Liberal Anglican Idea of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952); Turner, Greek Heritage, 94–115; Gooch, History and Historians, 294–95; Whitney Davis, Queer Beauty: Sexuality and Aesthetics from Winckelmann to Freud and Beyond (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 133–34.

29. Ferguson, Renaissance in Historical Thought, 198; cf. Peter Allan Dale, “Beyond Humanism: J.A. Symonds and the Replotting of the Renaissance,” Clio 17 (1988): 109–37.

30. Grosskurth, Woeful Victorian, 162; Davis, Queer Beauty, 99–134; Brady, Symonds and Homosexuality, 16; Ivory, Homosexual Revival.

31. A Problem in Greek Ethics: Being an Inquiry into the Phenomenon of Sexual Inversion. Symonds privately printed ten copies in 1883, which he circulated among friends. His own copy is held by the British Library (CUP.402.c.2). He subsequently revised the text (see below); the new version was published in two pirated editions (1901 (1908). Where the text is consistent across editions, I cite the widely-available 1901 edition; where not, I cite the BL copy. The 1883 text has now been reprinted in Brady, Symonds and Homosexuality.

32. Symonds, Memoirs, 232.

33. Symonds, A Problem in Greek Ethics: Being an Inquiry into the Phenomenon of Sexual Inversion (London: privately printed, 1901), 19, 44.

34. Jowett, Dialogues, II:30.

35. Symonds, Greek Ethics (1883), 69.

36. Dover, Greek Homosexuality, 19–20.

37. Symonds, Greek Ethics (1901), 44–47.

38. Ibid., 31. For Jowett’s dismissal, see Dialogues, II.15.

39. Symonds, Greek Ethics (1883), 96–97.

40. Robert Beachy, “The German Invention of Homosexuality,” Journal of Modern History 82 (2010): 801–38.

41. Symonds, Letters, 3:506–7; Symonds, “The Philosophy of Evolution,” Essays Speculative and Suggestive (London: Chapman & Hall, 1890), 1–26.

42. Symonds, A Problem in Modern Ethics (London: privately printed, 1896). The original fifty-copy edition of Modern Ethics (1891) is rare; I cite here the 1896 pirated reprint. The pirated text is identical, though the pagination differs: see Edward Carpenter’s 1891 copy, ML 125900. Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, Forschungen über das Räthsel der mannmänn-lichen Liebe, ed. Hubert Kennedy (Berlin: Verlag Rosa Winkel, 1994); Symonds, Letters, 3:814–15.

43. Symonds, Letters, 3:488; Rayburn Moore, ed., Selected Letters of Henry James to Edmund Gosse, 1882–1915: A Literary Friendship (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988), 90.

44. Symonds, Modern Ethics, 3.

45. Roy Porter and Lesley Hall, The Facts of Life: The Creation of Sexual Knowledge in Britain, 1650–1950 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 163.

46. Cf. Dowling, Hellenism and Homosexuality, 130–31.

47. On Ulrichs’s idiosyncratic readings of classical texts, see Sebastian Mätzner, “Literary Criticism and/as Gender Reassignment: Reading the Classics with Karl Heinrich Ulrichs” (paper presented at the Gender and Literature Seminar, Oxford, November 15, 2012); Mätzner, “From Uranians to Homosexuals: Philhellenism, Greek Homoeroticism, and Gay Emancipation in Germany 1835–1915,” Classical Receptions Journal 2 (2010): 60–91. Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis, with especial reference to Anti-pathic Sexual Instinct: A Medico-Forensic Study, trans. F.J. Rebman (Chicago: W.T. Keener & Co., 1901); Harry Oosterhuis, Stepchildren of Nature: Krafft-Ebing, Psychiatry, and the Making of Sexual Identity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

48. Symonds, Modern Ethics, 60, 89, 126–28.

49. Ibid., 1–4.

50. Ibid., 5, 9–15, 37.

51. Ibid., 28, 80–81.

52. Ibid., 34, 106–14; see Brady (2005), 190.

53. See Suzanne Raitt, “Sex, Love and the Homosexual Body in Early Sexology,” in Sexology in Culture: Labelling Bodies and Desires, ed. Lucy Bland and Laura Doan (Cambridge: Polity, 1998), 135–49.

54. Havelock Ellis, Sexual Inversion: A Critical Edition, ed. Ivan Crozier (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

55. Phyllis Grosskurth, Havelock Ellis: A Biography (New York: Knopf, 1980), 111–13, 173–75; Symonds, Letters, 3:98, 3:458–59, 3:587; letters from Ellis to Symonds, July 10, 1891 (Havelock Ellis Papers, British Library Add MS 70524 f. 82), June 18, 1892 (BL Add MS 70524 f. 84), July 1, 1892 (f. 86). Cf. Joseph Bristow, “Symonds’s History, Ellis’s Heredity: Sexual Inversion,” in Sexology in Culture, 79–99.

56. Symonds, Letters, 3:709–10.

57. Ibid., 3:755. See also 3:753; BL Add MS 70524 f. 90.

58. Symonds, Letters, 3:755.

59. Ellis to Symonds, December 21, 1892, BL Add MS 70524 f. 91; January 3, 1893, f. 94; March 3, 1893, BUL DM376.

60. Ellis, Sexual Inversion, 36n118, 43, 85 and passim. 616

61. Symonds, Letters, 3:816–18.

62. Ellis to Symonds, January 3, 1893, BL Add MS 70524 f. 94; Ellis, Sexual Inversion, 46.

63. Ellis to Symonds, February 9, 1893, BUL DM376.

64. Symonds, Letters, 3:816–18.

65. Ibid., 3:693–94.

66. Preface to Sexual Inversion (1897), reprinted in Crozier edition (2008), 94.

67. Ellis to Carpenter, December 17, 1892, BL Add MS 70536; Ellis to Symonds, January 18, 1893, BUL DM376.

68. Ellis, Sexual Inversion (2008), 181. On sexological case studies see Oosterhuis, Step-children of Nature, 127–209.

69. Grosskurth, Havelock Ellis: A Biography, 181–83; see also Ellis to Carpenter, August 3, 1897, BL Add MS 70536.

70. Henry Sidgwick, review, International Journal of Ethics 9 (1899): 261–62; Bart Schultz, Henry Sidgwick: The Eye of the Universe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

71. Preface to Sexual Inversion (1897), reprinted in Crozier edition (2008), 92.

72. Ellis, Sexual Inversion (2008), 220–23; see also Crozier’s introduction, 28, 34.

73. Ibid., 110–11, 183.

74. Brady, John Addington Symonds, 31. See also Ellis, Sexual Inversion (2008), 52.

75. Ellis, Sexual Inversion (2008), 229; see also Symonds, Greek Ethics (1901), 1. The pirated editions of Greek Ethics use the text from Sexual Inversion, aside from the replacement of Greek quotations with Symonds’s English translations and small discrepancies attributable to fallible typesetters.

76. Symonds, Greek Ethics (1883), 97.

77. See Ellis, Sexual Inversion (2008), 52.

78. Cf. Koestenbaum, Double Talk, 44–45; Bristow, “Symonds’s History, Ellis’s Heredity”; see also Ellis, Sexual Inversion (2008), 84.

79. Symonds, Letters, 2:986; Symonds, “The Philosophy of Evolution”; Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, Objectivity (New York: Zone, 2007); Carlo Ginzburg, “Clues: Morelli, Freud, and Sherlock Holmes,” in The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Peirce, ed. Umberto Eco and Thomas Sebeok (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983), 81–118.

80. Symonds, Letters, 3:475–76.

81. Symonds, Modern Ethics, 4.

82. “Autobiography” manuscript, 1885, London Library; Sarah Heidt, “ ‘Let JAS’ Words Stand’: Publishing John Addington Symonds’s Desires,” Victorian Studies 46 (2003): 7–31.

83. Mark Pattison, Memoirs (London: Macmillan, 1885); H.S. Jones, Intellect and Character in Victorian England: Mark Pattison and the Invention of the Don (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 105, 114; Anthony Grafton, “The Mssrs. Casaubon: Isaac Casaubon and Mark Pattison,” in Worlds Made by Words: Scholarship and Community in the Modern West (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009), 216–30.

84. Paul Robinson, Gay Lives: Homosexual Autobiography from John Addington Symonds to Paul Monette (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999); Jones, Intellect and Character, 128–29; David Amigoni, Life-Writing and Victorian Culture (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006). See also Lisa Sigel, Making Modern Love: Sexual Narratives and Identities in Interwar Britain (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2012).

85. Symonds, Modern Ethics, 123–25.

86. Symonds, Letters, 2:201–3; Symonds, Walt Whitman: A Study (London: J.C. Nimmo, 1893); Michael Robertson, Worshipping Walt: The Whitman Disciples (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), 146.

87. Symonds, Walt Whitman: A Study, 11, 135.

88. Ibid., 100.

89. Symonds, Modern Ethics, 123.

90. Whitman, Leaves of Grass (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1884), BUL DM1254/A400e. Symonds’s annotations in “Song of Myself” are dated 12–13 August 1884.

91. Robertson, Worshipping Walt, 61–65.

92. Symonds’s marginalia in Whitman, Leaves of Grass (New York: Chapin, 1867), Fales Library, NYU, 95.

93. Symonds’s copy of Leaves of Grass (1884), 95.

94. Ibid., 107.

95. Ibid., 101.

96. Ibid., 99.

97. Grosskurth, Woeful Victorian, 273–74.

98. Symonds, Letters, 3:493.

99. Symonds, Modern Ethics, 115.

100. Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman (New York: New York University Press, 1967), 535–36; Bristow, Effeminate England, 141; Katz, Love Stories, 272–87; C. Carroll Hollis, “Krieg, Joann P., ed., Walt Whitman: Here and Now; and Eve Sedgwick, Between Men [review],” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 3 (1986): 31–38; cf. M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Whitman’s Poetry of the Body: Sexuality, Politics, and the Text (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 167–73; David Reynolds, Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography (New York: Knopf, 1995), 396–97, 578–79; Betsy Erkkila, Walt Whitman’s Songs of Male Intimacy and Love (Iowa City: Iowa University Press, 2011), 147–48.

101. Symonds, Modern Ethics, 123–25.

102. Whitman, “To the East and to the West,” in Complete Poetry and Selected Prose and Letters, ed. Emory Holloway (London: Nonesuch Press, 1938), 123.

103. Jennifer Tolbert Roberts, Athens on Trial: The Antidemocratic Tradition in Western Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 263–64, 281–82; Caroline Winterer, The Culture of Classicism: Ancient Greece and Rome in American Intellectual Life, 1780–1910 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), 74–76; Betsy Erkkila, Whitman the Political Poet (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 45–46.

104. Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas (Washington, D.C.: no publisher, 1871); “Poetry To-Day in America—Shakespeare—The Future” and “A Thought on Shakespeare,” in Complete Prose Works (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1892), 288–301, 391–93. See Sedgwick, Between Men, 201–17; Cocks, Nameless Offences, 157–98; cf. Symonds, Letters, 3:790–91, 3:624–26.

105. Madeleine Stern, Heads and Headlines: The Phrenological Fowlers (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971).

106. Robertson, Worshipping Walt, 165, 197.

107. Symonds, Letters, 3:667–68.

108. Symonds’s daughter Katharine’s decades-long quest to consult the Memoirs is documented in her Hearts and Pomegranates (London: Peter Davies, 1940), and a series of letters and notes, BUL DM911, DM1227/4.

109. H. Montgomery Hyde, ed., The Trials of Oscar Wilde (London: William Hodge, 1949), 236; Ellmann, Oscar Wilde, 435–78.

110. Wilde’s copy (Morgan Library: PML 125895) bears the inscription “Oscar F. O’F. W. Wilde S.M. Magdalen College Oxford May ’76”; evidently, “Wilde purchased the book hot off the printing press” (Thomas Wright, Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde [New York: Henry Holt, 2008], 69).

111. Philip Smith and Michael Helfand, eds., Oscar Wilde’s Oxford Notebooks: A Portrait of Mind in the Making (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 115, 119, 135–40 and passim.

112. Wright, Built of Books.

113. Wright and Mead, “Preface” and “Introduction,” Women of Homer, 3–25; Iain Ross, Oscar Wilde and Ancient Greece (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

114. Symonds, “To Leander,” The Spirit Lamp 3 (February 17, 1893): 29. On Symonds’s correspondence with Wilde, see Letters, 2:686. Only one letter survives (Letters, 3:472–73), but there were likely several more.

115. Wilde, The Portrait of Mr W.H.: The Greatly Enlarged Version Prepared by the Author after the Appearance of the Story in 1889 but Not Published, ed. Vyvyan Holland (London: Methuen, 1958), 44; Lawrence Danson, “Oscar Wilde, W.H., and the Unspoken Name of Love,” ELH 58 (1991): 979–1000.

116. Sheila Rowbotham, Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love (London: Verso, 2008), 19, 185–89; Edward Carpenter, Homogenic Love and Its Place in a Free Society (Manchester: Labour Press Society, 1894); Carpenter, Iolaus: An Anthology of Friendship (London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1906).

117. E.M. Forster, “Locked Diary,” in The Journals and Diaries of E.M. Forster, ed. Philip Gardner (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2011), 2:35.

118. Wendy Moffat, A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E.M. Forster (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010), 117.

119. Grosskurth, Woeful Victorian, 316.

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