[Symonds contributed his own case history to the pioneering study
of Sexual Inversion, which was
published in Vol. I of Studies in the Psychology of
Sex, by Havelock Ellis and John Addington Symonds,
1897. This edition was quickly suppressed, and reference to
Symonds' authorship removed. I have used the version which
Symonds transcribed into the manuscript of his Memoirs. The cases
were renumbered in Ellis's subsequent revision for
Studies in the Psychology of Sex, which
perhaps accounts for the frequent error of ascribing "Case
17" to Symonds.]
About the age of 8, if not before, he became subject to singular
half-waking dreams. He fancied himself seated on the floor among
several adult and naked sailors, whose genitals and buttocks he
contemplated and handled with relish. He called himself the
"dirty pig" of these men, and felt that they were in
some way his masters, ordering him to do uncleanly services to
their bodies. He cannot remember ever having seen a naked man at
that time; and nothing in his memory explains why the men of his
dreams were supposed to be sailors. . . .
Between the age of 8 and 11 he twice took the penis of a
cousin into his mouth in the morning, after they had slept
together; the feeling of the penis pleased him.
When sleeping with another cousin, they used to lie with
hands outstretched to cover each other's penes or
nates. He preferred the nates, but his cousin
the penes. Neither cousin, just mentioned, was
homosexual; and there was no attempt at mutual masturbation.
He was in the habit of playing with five male cousins. One
of these boys was unpopular with the others, and they invented
a method of punishing him for supposed offences. They sat round
the room on chairs together, each with his penis exposed. The boy
went round on his knees and took each penis into his mouth in
turn. This was supposed to humiliate him. It did not lead to
masturbation. . . .
He was mentally precocious. When he began to read books, he
felt particularly attracted to certain male characters: the
Adonis of Shakespeare's poems (he wished he had been Venus),
Anzoleto in George Sand's Consuelo,
Hermes in Homer. He was very curious to know why the Emperors
kept boys as well as girls in their seraglios, and what the male
gods did with the youths they loved.
While at public school, he never practised onanism with
other boys, though they often tempted him, and he frequently saw
the act in process. It inspired him with a disagreeable sense of
indecency. Still in his 15th year, puberty commenced with
nocturnal pollutions and occasional masturbation. . . .
His old dreams about the sailors disappeared. But now he
enjoyed visions of beautiful young men and exquisite Greek
statues. Occasionally he saw in sleep the erect organs of
powerful grooms or peasants. The gross visions offended his taste
and hurt him; he took a strange poetic pleasure in the ideal
forms. But the seminal losses which attended both kinds, were a
perpetual source of misery to him. . . .
It was in his 18th year that an event which he regards as
decisive in his development occurred. He read the
Symposium of Plato. A new world opened,
and he felt that his own nature had been revealed. Next year he
formed a passionate but pure friendship with a boy of 15.
Personal contact with the boy caused erections, extreme
agitation, and aching pleasure: not ejaculation however. Through
4 years of intimacy he never saw him naked, or touched him
pruriently. Only twice he kissed him. He says that those two
kisses were the most perfect joys he ever felt.
His father became seriously anxious both about his health
and reputation. He warned him of the social and legal dangers
attending his temperament. . . .
He now felt that he must conquer himself by efforts of will
and by persistent direction of his thoughts to heterosexual
images. He sought the society of distinguished women. Once he
coaxed up a romantic affection for a Bernese maiden. But this
came to nothing, probably because the girl felt a want of
absolute passion in his wooing.
He was now strongly advised to marry by his father and other
physicians. He did so when he was exactly 24 years and 1 month
old. Then he found that he was potent. But to his disappointment
he also found that he only cohabited with his wife faute de
mieux. He still dreamed of men, desired them, even began to
desire soldiers. He begat in all 4 children, females. His wife,
the member of a noble family, disliked sexual connection and
hated pregnancy. This was a great misfortune for him. His wife's
temperament led to long intervals of separation a toro.
During those months, this physical, mental and moral discomfort
was acute. At last, unable to bear it any longer, he indulged his
passion with a young man of 19. This took place when he was 30
years of age. Soon afterwards he wholly abandoned matrimonial
connections. He did this with the full approval of his wife, to
whom the step brought relief. The reason assigned was that his
pulmonary disease made slow but sure advances, rendering the
further procreation of children morally wrong.
When he had once begun to indulge his inborn homosexual
instincts, he rapidly recovered his health. The neurotic
disturbances subsided; the phthisis þ which had progressed as far
as profuse hemorrhage and formation of cavity þ was arrested. By
the age of 50, that is during the next 20 years, he made himself
one of the leaders of English literature.
He has not informed me what form of homosexual intercourse
he practises. He is certainly not simply passive and shows no
sign of effeminatio. He likes sound and vigorous young
men of a lower rank from the age of 20 to 25. I gather from his
conversation that the mode of pleasure is indifferent to his
He believes firmly that his homosexual appetite was inborn
and developed in exactly the same way and by the same exciting
causes as the heterosexual appetite in normal persons. He is
persuaded that, having in boyhood frequented the society of boys
and girls alike, he leaned toward the suggestions of the male
because there was in him a congenital bias of sex in that
direction. He has no moral sense of doing wrong, and is quite
certain that he suffers or benefits in health of mind and body
according as he abstains from or indulges in moderate homosexual
pleasure. He feels the intolerable injustice of his social
position, and considers the criminal codes of modern nations, in
so far as they touch his case, to be iniquitous. As an artist and
man of letters he regrets the fate which has forced him to
conceal his true emotions, and thereby to lose the most genial
channels of self-expression.
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