Heart Trouser Fly

The Gay Love Letters of Francisco Correa Netto to Manoel Viegas, 1664

Excerpts from My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters through the Centuries (1998), Edited by Rictor Norton

Copyright © 1997, 1998 by Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited.

There was a well-established gay subculture in Lisbon and the larger cities of Portugal during the seventeenth century, in which effeminate gay men (fanchonos) kept assignations in special rooming houses, and danced together in public squares during festivals wearing women's clothes (danca dos fanchonos). Some gay men adopted nicknames such as "Rafael Fanchono", "Miss Turk," and "Miss Galicia." The King of Portugal Don Affonoso VI (1656–1683) was himself a notorious homosexual. The following letters were sent by "Francisquinha": Francisco Correa Netto, the sacristan of the Cathedral of Silves in southern Portugal, to Manoel Viegas, a guitarist and maker of musical instruments, who also served at the Cathedral. Viegas turned them over to the Vicar of Silves on March 29, 1664, with the note "Observe the fatuity of this whore of a sodomite [puto do somitigo]. Ha! How pious he seems!". The Vicar of Silves sent them to the Inquisition of Evora and denounced Correa for "sodomy". Correa destroyed Viegas’s letters to him, but it seems that there was a courtship followed by jealousy, and Viegas may have betrayed his one-time lover at the instigation of the Vicar of Silves who had a grudge against Correa. Several people claimed that Correa was a notorious sodomite, but the Inquisition decided not to arrest or put him on trial for neffandum peccatum because they required proof of anal penetration and emission, which could not be obtained. The Portuguese Inquisition was generally compassionate in these affairs, although they did in fact compile two large "Catalogues of Sodomites" (Repertorios do Nefando), listing everyone denounced for or confessing this crime from 1587 to 1794, totalling 4,419 names – of which perhaps only 408 were actually tried, of whom about 30 were convicted and handed over to the secular authorities to be burned.
          The phrase coracao da barguilha used in the letters, which literally means "heart trouser fly," is a poetic euphemism for caralho, meaning "cock."


[c. March 1664]

Senhor Manoel Viegas:
         If men sleep with me, it is not to find a pussy. They place the cock between my legs, and there they have their way. I do not achieve it. If Your Grace [Vossa Merce] would wish the same, dispose of me, I am at your service, to whom I swear unto death, to offer what is needed, and the losses are mine.
          Francisco Correa Netto

Tender gift to me and longing of my senses, the tranquillity of my thoughts about you is the proof of how much I desire and love you!
          Now I shall not have peace nor hope of having you, because I see that not even with the best argument will my pledge serve you, heart wounded to death, heart never to be released from my affection for you.
          My love and bounty: my feelings cannot rest an hour, either by day or night, without bringing to mind your companionship and your sweet words that are continually reflected in my memory.
          Mirror of my sight and joy, if I have any right to you, bring peace to my heart and confirm the news I received this evening, that you were betrothed to a niece of Francisco Luiz last Monday. I would have said that by Easter you would be betrothed to me. You implied that often, and you gave your word on it. But do as you please: in spite of this I shall not stop doing what I can to be at your service. And remembering your arms and the kiss you gave me, that is what torments me most! And you know this subject well, in that heart trouser fly, it was that which desired me, with its craving to fly up. There was no Lent for that heart trouser fly, when I touched it with my fingers, and instantly it sprang up! And you, so evil, who did not want to do what comes so naturally!
          Goodbye, my darling, my happiness, my true love!
          My idea is that, even though you may be married, you do not have to break your promise to be the betrothed of your devoted Francisquinha. It seems to me you told Manoel da Costa that if I complied with your whims, even then you would not come to me, because you do not care, and it was all sham.
          Here is paper to answer: Now you have no excuse not to write for lack of paper.

Manual [sic] Viegas:
            Our Lord allow you to live as many happy years as you desire!
          I was not so black-hearted that you should say publicly that I should not go to your house. If you wished to say that, you should write or tell me privately. However, not even for this affront will I become your enemy; and if you need something, advise me in writing.
          I sent your clothes to be washed. Go to the house of Matias Araujo to order some shoes. And I will give you everything I have promised. And for the fiancee, thirty alqueires [= 5 sacks, or 300 kilos] of wheat. As for my letters, tear them up, as I will destroy yours. Make me a guitar [viola] by your own hand, for which I will pay you. Heaven guard you all the years you desire, friend.
          Francisco Correa Netto

False Traitor!
          False deluded love: with what words can I express this sentiment? After Your Grace [Vossa Merce] left, news came to me that Your Grace intended to possess Maria Nunes, who does not conceal this from anyone, not even from me, saying that Your Grace gave her some beads and pin money, saying that you desired her much. And en route to the shoemaker's to repair some shoes, we talked about biscuits, and she said that Your Grace gave her some, and she said there were none so perfect. So it seems that Your Grace has a great love for her, because she says that you come from your lovers, bringing her their gifts.
My destiny is wretched. I was confident until this, thinking that I possessed Your Grace. Better that I were put to death a thousand times than to live with something that I remember that I did to some person some time ago. But after all, if she goes around telling everyone that she saw what you gave me on my finger, my heart will burst within my chest, and I had to excuse this by saying that I had purchased the ring from Your Grace. Vossa Merce has left my heart besieged, with my sentiments manifest in my tears; and when I see the person I desire, I am sad and jealous, and so Your Grace grows happier. As the proverb says, "One remembers where the honey was" ["O mel faz por onde o lembrem"], and this is how I must be with Your Grace, inasmuch as Your Grace pays so little attention. Your Grace has so many, and one will be the worse for it, and I am that one, because I had such love for Your Grace, that just seeing you made me so happy that I could not eat. It is certain that "whoever loves more strongly deserves least" [quem mais ama, menos merece]. I will leave my heart afar, and I will look at the ground whenever I pass Your Grace.
          Heaven protect Your Grace for the sake of your two lovers!

False and Flatterer:
          If I could mock, scoffing at someone in love! But in the end, "whoever loves more strongly deserves least." For me there were only tears, tears caused by you and by so many skirts. Now she has what I desired. So often I have sent you word not to pay attention to me, but why do you dine with your women friends rather than with me, and then why do you send me notes that are lies? Those women were jealous of me because I wore someone else's ring. They said that I should return it to its owner. And here it is. I don't want anything of yours in my possession. Do the same with what you have of mine, and that will give me much pleasure. Do not ever speak to me or look at me again. I return the ring to encourage the hilarity of your lady friends.

SOURCE: Translated by Luis Mott and Aroldo Assunçao, “Love’s Labours Lost: Five Letters from a Seventeenth-Century Portuguese Sodomite", in The Pursuit of Sodomy: Male Homosexuality in Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe, ed. Kent Gerard and Gert Hekma (New York: Harrington Park Press, Inc., 1989), pp. 91-101. Reprinted by permission of The Haworth Press, Inc., New York.

Return to My Dear Boy Table of Contents
Return to Gay History and Literature