Peter Wildeblood was born in Italy in 1923, the only child of Henry Wildeblood, a retired engineer from the Indian Public Works Department, and his second wife Winifred, daughter of an Argentinian sheep rancher. (He had older brothers from his father’s first marriage, but as they were already grown with families of their own when Peter was born, he was raised as an only child.) His father was sixty at the time of Peter’s birth, a circumstance which in later life he wondered was responsible for his sexuality. (more…)
In 1954, following the high-profile convictions of Lord Montagu, Michael Pitt-Rivers, and Peter Wildeblood for homosexual crimes under the infamous 1885 Labouchere Amendment, and more significantly the turn of public opinion against the prosecutors of that case, the Home Secretary ordered that a committee which had been set up in order to look into the matter of prostitution also consider the criminality of homosexuality. (more…)
Alan Turing was born in 1912, second child of Julius and Ethel. His father held a position with the India Civil Service, but his parents returned to England before Alan’s birth, keen for their sons to be raised in England. When his parents needed to return to India, they left the boys in the care of a retired army couple during their absences. (more…)
The 1950s was a dark decade for queer Englishmen. Between 1945 and 1955, arrests for “gross indecency” soared to over 2,500 a year, with an average of 1,000 men being incarcerated annually. It was a marked increase, seen by many as a targeted persecution, and became known as the “gay pogrom.” Those who believe that narrative trace the cause to the huge number of servicemen, freshly discharged from the war with nowhere to go, unable to find work. (more…)
Subtitled The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder, Brideshead Revisited was written in a three month period in early 1943 while Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) was on leave from the army.
On the surface, Brideshead is a simple story of friendship gone awry. Charles Ryder, while an undergraduate at Oxford, meets and becomes friends with Lord Sebastian Flyte, second son of Lord Marchmain. Brideshead is Sebastian’s family seat, inhabited by his mother, elder brother, and sister. Lord Marchmain, who converted to Catholicism in order to marry Sebastian’s mother, has renounced both his church and his marriage, and moved to Venice to be with his mistress. So abandoned, Lady Marchmain finds ever deeper solace in her faith. (more…)
Poet’s Corner is the name given to the section of the South Transept of Westminster Abbey where some of England’s most famous writers are interred or memorialised. In 1985, a slate was added, commemorating sixteen poets of the Great War. They were Richard Aldington, Laurence Binyon, Edmund Blunden, Rupert Brooke, Wilfrid Gibson, Robert Graves, Julian Grenfell, Ivor Gurney, David Jones, Robert Nichols, Wilfred Owen, Herbert Read, Isaac Rosenberg, Siegfried Sassoon, Charles Sorley, and Edward Thomas. (more…)
The concept of romantic friendships has been around since before the days when Plato gave his name to loving somebody without involving sex. To the Greeks (or at least the Athenian Greeks), it was a model of virtue and purity to which many aspired, and classically-educated Europeans for centuries after strove to emulate.
Today, the England of the past has a reputation for stuffiness and repression which the men and women living at the time would struggle to recognise. Partly because homosexuality as a concept and identity didn’t exist until the latter half of the nineteenth century, men in particular were much more tactile and affectionate with each other than, well, today. (more…)
First published in 1953, Mary Renault’s lyrical novel The Charioteer is the story of Laurie “Spud” Odell’s coming-of-age, set against the backdrop of the Second World War. That Renault was informed by the works of Freud is apparent from the very first chapter, when five-year-old Laurie’s father walks out.
Laurie is in bed, but not asleep. Ten o’clock has come and gone — “Nine was the wild outpost of an unknown continent. Ten was the mountains of the moon, the burial-place of elephants: white on the map.” Understanding that he only remained awake past bedtime when he was sick, Laurie decides that he must be going to die. (more…)
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was a neurologist by training, best remembered today as the father of psychoanalysis. His theories on sexuality and childhood development are probably best known, although his work spanned a much broader spectrum, including writings on the development of civilisation, the unconscious and dream-states, and religion. He also extolled the virtues of cocaine, and regularly took enough to kill a horse. (more…)
Science is, at its heart, the pursuit of pure knowledge. The earliest sexologists were scientists, working towards an understanding of human sexuality. They were remarkable, in a period now best remembered as oppressive and puritanical, for the objectivity with which they approached their subject. Sexologists like Ellis and Symonds took pains not to cast moral judgment on the men and women they studied: indeed, as their careers progressed they often advocated for legal and medical change on behalf of their subjects. They were among the first campaigners for LGBT rights, and some of the most influential. (more…)