Reviews and Critiques by Rictor Norton

Nineteenth-Century Writings on Homosexuality
Edited by Chris White

Yet another doorstopping anthology from Routledge, which occupies an honorary niche on my gay history bookshelves. This hefty "Sourcebook" contains a comprehensive range of legal and historical texts, poetry and fiction, and the major Victorian contributions to the study and defence of what was variously described as homogenic love, Uranian love, Greek love, inverted sexuality, or similisexualism. The most important contributors to the new discourse about homosexuality are well represented (John Addington Symonds, Edward Carpenter, Havelock Ellis), and are complemented by some oddities (such as Mrs Havelock Ellis on "Eugenics and the mystical outlook") and some rarities (such as erotic verse from Aleister Crowley and A.C. Swinburne). Nearly two-thirds of the material predate the "invention of the homosexual" that queer theorists allege took place in 1869, and we are treated to excerpts from a dozen trials preceding Oscar Wilde’s allegedly "defining" trials of 1895, such as the conviction of one Edward Ransford for sending a lewd and indecent letter endeavouring to corrupt the morals of the lad William D’Arcy Gardiner O’Halloran in 1874. The collection provides a healthy mixture of sex and science especially suitable for gay and lesbian studies programmes.

(Copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. This review may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the author.)

Return to Reviews and Critiques
Return to Gay History and Literature