Selection copyright © 1997 by Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. This edition may not be reproduced or redistributed to third parties without permission of the editor.

[Symonds began his autobiography in 1889 and spent much time on it for the next two years. On his death in 1893 it was given into the care of his friend and executor Horatio Forbes Brown, with instructions "to save it from destruction after my death, and yet to reserve its publication for a period when it will not be injurious to my family". Upon Brown's death in 1926, the manuscript was given by Edmund Gosse to the London Library, on whose committee he served, with instructions that they could not be published for fifty years. The green cloth box containing them was sealed until 1949, when Symonds's daughter Dame Katharine Furse was allowed to read them; in 1954 the Library granted easier access to scholars, while not allowing direct quotation; in 1976 the embargo was lifted, in accordance with the original injunction; and in 1984 they were finally published, in an edition of about four-fifths of the full text, by Phyllis Grosskurth. She omitted many poems upon youths such as Alfred Brooke, early descriptive writings, transcripts of letters sent to him, letters sent by him to his wife, testimonials upon several of his academic friends, and much material about Christian Buol. The excerpt on "Passing Strangers" is from a letter to Catherine dated 3 June 1867, which was copied into the manuscript. The remaining excerpts illustrate the major phases of Symonds's growing self-realization and self-acceptance as a homosexual.]


One thing at Harrow very soon arrested my attention. It was the moral state of the school. Every boy of good looks had a female name, and was recognised either as a public prostitute or as some bigger fellow's "bitch". Bitch was the word in common usage to indicate a boy who yielded his person to a lover. The talk in the dormitories and the studies was incredibly obscene. Here and there one could not avoid seeing acts of onanism, mutual masturbation, the sports of naked boys in bed together. There was no refinement, no sentiment, no passion; nothing but animal lust in these occurrences. They filled me with disgust and loathing. My school-fellows realised what I had read in Swift about the Yahoos.

I particularly disliked two boys: a clever Irish lad called W. J. Currey and a brutal clown called Clayton. Of Clayton I need speak no more. He was too stupid and perverse and clumsy to deserve description. Currey, on the other hand, was a better scholar than myself, and possessed a variety of facile talents. He spent much of his time on music and drawing, played games, and loafed. Yet though he never seemed to work, he always took a good place in his form. Unfortunately he was dirty in his dress and person, filthy in his talk, and shamelessly priapic in his conduct. We went through the school side by side. At the end of our time together, I discovered really fine intellectual and emotional qualities beneath his Satyric exterior. I imagine that he may have permanently injured his constitution by his youthful vagaries; for Currey's career in afterlife has not been as distinguished as might have been expected.

A third boy, named Barber, annoyed and amused me. He was like a good-nature longimanous ape, gibbering on his perch and playing ostentatiously with a prodigiously developed phallus. A fourth, Cookson, was a red-faced strumpet, with flabby cheeks and sensual mouth — the notissima fossa [the most infamous trench] of our house.

I have seen nothing more repulsive in my life — except once at the Alhambra in Leicester Square, when I saw a jealous man tear the earrings out of the ruptured lobes of a prostitute's ears, and all the men in the saloon rose raging at him for his brutality

I have seen nothing more disgusting in my life, I say, than the inhuman manner in which this poor creature Cookson came afterwards to be treated by his former lovers. What he did to deserve his punishment I never heard, not being initiated into their mysteries. But, after a certain period — after they had rolled upon the floor with him and had exposed his person in public they took to trampling on him. Whenever he appeared in that mean dining room, about those dirty passages, upon the sordid court through which we entered from the road into our barracks, Currey and Clayton and Barber and the rest of the brood squirted saliva and what they called gobs upon their bitch, cuffed and kicked him at their mercy, shied books at him, and drove him with obscene curses whimpering to his den.

These four were all at Rendall's. A fifth fellow, E. Dering, in Steele's house, both fascinated and repelled me. He resembled a handsome Greek brigand in face. I remember noticing a likeness to his features in the photograph of one of the decapitated Marathon cut-throats. His body was powerful, muscular, lissom as a tiger. The fierce and cruel lust of this magnificent animal excited my imagination. Dering used to come into our house after a plum fair-haired boy, called Ainslie, whom we dubbed Bum Bathsheba because of his opulent posterior parts.

So much had to be said in general about the moral atmosphere into which I was plunged at the age of thirteen. It will appear in the sequel that Harrow exercised a powerful influence over certain phases of my development. But I must not omit to mention that, while I was at school, I remained free in fact and act from this contamination. During my first half year the "beasts", as they were playfully called, tried to seduce me. But it was soon decided that I was "not game".

* * *

The progress of a lad of seventeen has to be reckoned not by years but by months.

We were reading Plato's Apology in the sixth form. I bought Cary's crib, and took it with me to London on an exeat in March. My hostess, a Mrs Bain, who lived in Regent's Park, treated me to a comedy one evening at the Haymarket. I forget what the play was — except that there was a funny character in it, who set the house in a roar by his enunciation of this sentence: "Smythers please, not Smithers; Smithers is a different party, and moves in quite a different sphere". When we returned from the play, I went to bed and began to read my Cary's Plato. It so happened that I stumbled on this Phaedrus. I read on and on, till I reached the end. Then I began the Symposium; and the sun was shining on the shrubs outside the ground-floor room in which I slept, before I shut the book up.

I have related these insignificant details because that night was one of the most important nights of my life; and when anything of great gravity has happened to me, I have always retained a firm recollection of trifling facts which formed its context.

Here in the Phaedrus and the Symposium — in the myth of the Soul and the speeches of Pausanias Agathon and Diotima — I discovered the true liber amoris at last, the revelation I had been waiting for, the consecration of a long-cherished idealism. It was just as though the voice of my own soul spoke to me through Plato, as though in some antenatal experience I had lived the life of a philosophical Greek lover.

Harrow vanished into unreality. I had touched solid ground. I had obtained the sanction of the love which had been ruling me from childhood. Here was the poetry, the philosophy of my own enthusiasm for male beauty, expressed with all the magic of unrivalled style. And, what was more, I now became aware that the Greek race — the actual historical Greeks of antiquity — treated this love seriously, invested it with moral charm, endowed it with sublimity.

For the first time I saw the possibility of resolving in a practical harmony the discords of my instincts. I perceived that masculine love had its virtue as well as its vice, and stood in this respect upon the same ground as normal sexual appetite. I understood, or thought I understood, the relation which those dreams of childhood and the brutalities of vulgar lust at Harrow bore to my higher aspiration after noble passion. . . .

Willie Dyer

When my father learned the truth about my romantic affection for Willie Dyer, he thought it right to recommend a cautious withdrawal from the intimacy. The arguments he used were conclusive. Considering the very delicate position in which I stood with regard to Vaughan, the possibility of Vaughan's story becoming public, and the doubtful nature of my own emotion, prudence pointed to a gradual diminution or cooling-off of friendship.

At that important moment of my life, I could not understand, and I've never been able to understand, why people belonging to different strata in society — if they love each other — could not enter into comradeship. But my father made me see that, under the existing conditions of English manners, an ardent friendship between me (a young man, gently born, bred at Harrow, advancing to the highest academical honours at Balliol) and Willie (a Bristol chorister, the son of a Dissenting tailor), would injure not my prospects only but his reputation. The instincts of my blood, the conventionalities under which I had been trained, the sympathy I felt for sisters and for brothers- in-law, the ties which bound me to the class of gentlefolk, brought me to look upon myself as an aberrant being, who was being tutored by my father's higher sense of what is right in conduct. Furthermore, I recognised that in my own affection for Willie there was something similar to the passion which had ruined Vaughan. I foresaw the possibility, if I persisted in my love for him, of being brought into open rupture with my family, and would involve my friend thereby in what would hamper his career by casting the stigma of illicit passion on our intercourse.

Under this pressure of arguments from without, of sense of weakness within, and of conventional traditions which had made me what I was, I yielded. I gave up Willie Dyer as my avowed heart's friend and comrade. I submitted to the desirability of not acknowledging the boy I loved in public. But I was not strong enough to break the bonds which linked us or to extirpate the living love I felt for him. I carried on our intimacy in clandestine ways and fed my temperament on sweet emotion in secret. This deceit, and the encouragement of what I then recognised as an immoral impulse, brought me cruel wrong.

Here I feel inclined to lay my pen down in weariness. Why should I go on to tell the story of my life? The back of my life was broken when I yielded to convention, and became untrue in soul to Willie.

But what is human life other than successive states of untruth and conforming to custom? We are, all of us, composite beings, made up, heaven knows how, out of the compromises we have effected between our impulses and instincts and the social laws which gird us round.

Had Willie been a boy of my own rank, our friendship need not have been broken; or had English institutions favoured equality like those I admire in Switzerland, he might have been admitted to my father's home. As it was, I continued for some years to keep up an awkward and uncomfortable intercourse with him, corresponding by letters, meeting him in churches where he played the organ and going with him now and then to concerts. I paid the organist of Bristol Cathedral fifty guineas as premium for Willie's musical education, and thus was responsible for starting him in a career he wished to follow. . . .

Passing Strangers

A citizen of Coutances gave a large garden on the hill-slope to his townsfolk. It is laid out in terraces and walks. Before we found it out, we met two old women sitting on the steps of a church & gazing across the house-roofs to the lands below. They had a young man with them, slender & graceful, with a wistful look in his grey eyes, as though they were sweeping the horizon in search of something sweet and far away he had not yet discovered. Charlotte asked them where the public garden was. They rose at once to show us the way; & the young man sauntered at their side, half bold, half shy, darting his love-laden soul out in furtive glances from heavy silky eye lashes. A singularly magnetic youth, with a force in him "eligible to burst forth", & only too ready to do so. The simplicity of the two old dames in their prim white caps & blue check gowns formed a curious contrast to the passionate suppression of the boy, alert for adventures and eager to taste of love's forbidden fruit. I hummed to myself "Non so più coso son, cosa faccio" ["I no longer know what I am, what I am doing" — Cherubino's aria in Le Nozze di Figaro]. They grinned from ear to ear, going off into ecstasies of admiration over the Cathedral & the beauties of the garden which they promised us. He, their son & nephew [François], as it turned out, kept appealing to me with his eyes, & asking mutely whether I too did not want something more than this. It was pleasant to see so much enjoyment of the simplest things in the old women, such gaiety & good-humour, such kindly artless manners. . . . And all the while his languid eloquent eyes were asking me: "Do you want nothing? Is there nothing to give, nothing to get?" In a sort of way I corresponded; for these meetings with passing strangers, these magnetisms of one indifferent person by another, are among the strangest things in life. I remember, for example, today, as though it had been yesterday, how several years ago a young man in a shirt & trousers, stretched upon a parapet below the Ponte di Paradiso at Venice, gazed into my eyes as I rowed past him, lifted his head, then rose upon his elbows, & followed me till I was out of sight with a fixed look which I shall remember if we meet in the next world. . . . Charlotte delighted in the kindly, hale, hearty, sweet-tempered, plain-featured, innocent, hospitable elderly ladies. They liked the amusement of walking with two English tourists. But the young man & I, we wanted to be comrades, if only for a day or two in passing; he to hear of my life, I of his; to embrace & exchange experiences; to leave a mark upon each other's memory; to part at last as friends with something added, each by each to each. And things are so arranged that this may not be, perhaps ought not to be, though I cannot, for the soul of me, see why they should not be. . . .

The "Wolf"

It was my primary object when I began these autobiographical notes to describe as accurately and candidly as I was able a type of character, which I do not at all believe to be exceptional, but which for various intelligible reasons has never yet been properly analyzed. I wanted to supply material for the ethical psychologist and the student of mental pathology, by portraying a man of no mean talents, of no abnormal depravity, whose life has been perplexed from first to last by passion — natural, instinctive, healthy in his own particular case — but morbid and abominable from the point of view of the society in which he lives — persistent passion for the male sex.

This was my primary object. It seemed to me, being a man of letters, possessing the pen of a ready writer and the practised impartiality of a critic accustomed to weigh evidence, that it was my duty to put on record the facts and phases of this aberrant inclination in myself — so that fellow-sufferers from the like malady, men innocent as I have been, yet haunted as I have been by a sense of guilt and dread of punishment, men injured in their character and health by the debasing influences of a furtive and lawless love, men deprived of the best pleasures which reciprocated passion yields to mortals, men drive in upon ungratified desires and degraded by humiliating outbursts of ungovernable appetite, should feel that they are not alone, and should discover at the same time how a career of some distinction, of considerable energy and perseverance, may be pursued by one who bends and sweats beneath a burden heavy enough to drag him down to pariahdom. Nor this only. I hoped that the unflinching revelation of my moral nature, connected with the history of my intellectual development and the details of my physical disorders, might render the scientific handling of similar cases more enlightened than it is at present, and might arouse some sympathy even in the breast of Themis for not ignoble victims of a natural instinct reputed vicious in the modern age. No one who shall have read these memoirs, and shall possess even a remote conception of my literary labour, will be able to assert that the author was a vulgar and depraved sensuality. He may be revolted; he may turn with loathing from the spectacle. But he must acknowledge that it possesses the dignity of tragic suffering. . . .

In the spring of 1865 we were living in lodgings in Albion Street, Hyde Park. I had been one evening to the Century Club, which then met near St Martin le Grand in rooms, I think, of the Alpine Club. Walking home before midnight, I took a little passage which led from Trafalgar into Leicester Square, passing some barracks. This passage has since then been suppressed. I was in evening dress. At the entrance of the alley a young grenadier came up and spoke to me. I was too innocent, strange as this may seem, to guess what he meant. But I liked the man's looks, felt drawn toward him, and did not refuse his company. So there I was, the slight nervous man of fashion in my dress clothes, walking side by side with a strapping fellow in scarlet uniform, strongly attracted by his physical magnetism. From a few commonplace remarks he broke abruptly into proposals, mentioned a house we could go to, and made it quite plain for what purpose. I quickened my pace, and hurrying through the passage broke away from him with a passionate mixture of repulsion and fascination.

What he offered was not what I wanted at the moment, but the thought of it stirred me deeply. The thrill of contact with the man taught me something new about myself. I can well recall the lingering regret, and the quick sense of deliverance from danger, with which I saw him fall back, after following and pleading with me for about a hundred yards. The longing left was partly a fresh seeking after comradeship and partly an animal desire the like of which I had not before experienced. The memory of this incident abode with me, and often rose to haunt my fancy. Yet it did not disturb my tranquillity during the ensuing summer, which we spent at Clifton and Sutton Court. Toward autumn we settled into our London house, 47 Norfolk Square, Hyde Park. Here it happened that a second seemingly fortuitous occurrence intensified the recrudescence of my trouble. I went out for a solitary walk on one of those warm moist unhealthy afternoons when the weather oppresses and yet irritates our nervous sensibilities. Since the date of my marriage I had ceased to be assailed by what I called "the wolf" — that undefined craving coloured with a vague but poignant hankering after males. I lulled myself with the belief that it would not leap on me again to wreck my happiness and disturb my studious habits. However, wandering that day for exercise through the sordid streets between my home and Regent's Park, I felt the burden of a ponderous malaise. To shake it off was impossible. I did not recognise it as a symptom of the moral malady from which I had resolutely striven to free myself. Was I not protected by my troth-pledge to a noble woman, by my recent entrance upon the natural career of married life? While returning from this fateful constitutional, at a certain corner, which I well remember, my eyes were caught by a rude graffito scrawled with slate-pencil upon slate. It was of so concentrated, so stimulative, so penetrative a character — so thoroughly the voice of vice and passion in the proletariat — that it pierced the very marrow of my soul. "Prick to prick, so sweet"; with an emphatic diagram of phallic meeting, glued together, gushing. I must have seen a score such graffiti in my time. But they had not hitherto appealed to me. Now the wolf leapt out: my malaise of the moment was converted into a clairvoyant and tyrannical appetite for the thing which I had rejected five months earlier in the alley by the barracks. The vague and morbid craving of the previous years defined itself as a precise hunger after sensual pleasure, whereof I had not dreamed before save in repulsive visions of the night.

. . . Inborn instincts, warped by my will and forced to take a bias contrary to my peculiar nature, reasserted themselves with violence. I did not recognise the phenomenon as a temptation. It appeared to me, just what it was, the resurrection of a chronic torment which had been some months in abeyance. Looking back upon the incident now, I know that obscene graffito was the sign and symbol of a paramount and permanent craving of my physical and psychical nature. It connected my childish reveries with the mixed passions and audacious comradeship of my maturity. Not only my flesh, but my heart also, was involved in the emotion which it stirred.

* * *

In February 1877, I think, I gave three lectures on "Florence and the Medici" at the Royal Institution. This took me of course to London; and, as it happened, an acquaintance of old standing asked me one day to go with him to a male brothel near the Regent's Park Barracks. I consented out of curiosity. Moved by something stronger than curiosity, I made an assignation with a brawny young soldier for an afternoon to be passed in a private room at the same house. Naturally, I chose a day on which I was not wanted at the Royal Institution. We came together at the time appointed; the strapping young soldier with his frank eyes and pleasant smile, and I, the victim of sophisticated passions. For the first time in my experience I shared a bed with one so different from myself, so ardently desired by me, so supremely beautiful in my eyes, so attractive to my senses. He was a very nice fellow, as it turned out: comradely and natural, regarding the affair which had brought us together in that place from a business-like and reasonable point of view. For him at all events it involved nothing unusual, nothing shameful; and his simple attitude, the not displeasing vanity with which he viewed his own physical attractions, and the genial sympathy with which he met the passion they aroused, taught me something I had never before conceived about illicit sexual relations. Instead of yielding to any brutal impulse, I thoroughly enjoyed the close vicinity of that splendid naked piece of manhood; then I made him clothe himself, sat and smoked and talked with him, and felt, at the end of the whole transaction, that some at least of the deepest moral problems might be solved by fraternity. He made no exorbitant demands upon my purse, and seemed to appreciate the way in which I had accepted him — adding an agreeable intimation of his own satisfaction at the delight I took in his delightfulness, and all this was expressed by him in a wholly manly way, although I could not help imagining what he might have undergone on previous occasions within the walls of that chamber, and thinking how mean and base any comradeship must be, built upon such foundations. We parted the best of friends, exchanging addresses; and while I was in London, I met him several times again, in public places, without a thought of vice.

This experience exercised a powerful effect upon my life. I learned from it — or I deluded myself into thinking I had learned — that the physical appetite of one male for another may be made the foundation of a solid friendship, when the man drawn by passion exhibits a proper respect for the man who draws. I also seemed to perceive that, within the sphere of the male brothel, even in that lawless godless place, permanent human relations — affections, reciprocal toleration, decencies of conduct, asking and yielding, concession and abstention — find their natural sphere: perhaps more than in the sexual relations consecrated by middle-class matrimony. So at least the manly and comradely attitude of the young soldier, who had sold his body to a stranger, and with whom I as a stranger fraternised, indicated. Was this a delusion? To this hour I do not know, though I have extended the same experience, with similar results, a hundredfold, never seeming to outrage any purely natural sentiments, but only colliding with the sense of law and the instincts of convention. I came away from the male brothel with a strong conviction that, although it was a far more decent place than I expected, this was not the proper ground in which to plant the seeds of irresistible emotion. It offered an initial difficulty — a false position — which had to be overcome. It raised disgust, and I left it shaking the dust and degradation of the locality off my feet. With just the same feeling of disgust, not more, not less, have I quitted female brothels. But there I never found the satisfaction which the soldier gave me. From him I learned that natural male beings in the world at large were capable of corresponding to my appreciation of them. A dangerous lesson, perhaps.

Meanwhile I was giving my lectures on Florence to the Royal Institution. Very dull lectures they were, for my soul was not in them; my soul throbbed for the soldier; and I had composed the lectures specially for what I most abhor, an audience of cultivated people. This is a paradoxical confession. I am nothing if not cultivated; or, at least, the world only expects culture from me. But, in my heart of hearts, I do not believe in culture except as an adjunct to life. Life is more than literature, I say. So I cannot, although I devote my time and energy to culture (even as a carpenter makes doors, or a carver carves edelweiss on walnut wood), regard it otherwise than in the light of pastime, decoration, service. Passion, nerve and sinew, eating and drinking, the stomach and the bowels, sex, action, even money-getting — the coarsest forms of activity — come, in my reckoning, before culture. The man, the man's the thing. . . .

Angelo Fusato

In the spring of 1881 I was staying for a few days at Venice. I had rooms in the Casa Alberti on the Fondamenta Venier, S. Vio, and it was late in the month of May.

One afternoon I chanced to be sitting with my friend Horatio Brown in a little backyard to the wineshop of Fighetti at S. Elisabetta on the Lido. Gondoliers patronise this place, because Fighetti, a muscular giant, is a hero among them. He has won I do not know how many flags in their regattas. While we were drinking our wine Brown pointed out to me two men in white gondolier uniform, with the enormously broad black hat which was then fashionable. They were servants of a General de Horsey; and one of them was strikingly handsome. The following description of him, written a few days after our first meeting, represents with fidelity the impression he made on my imagination.

He was tall and sinewy, but very slender — for these Venetian gondoliers are rarely massive in their strength. Each part of the man is equally developed by the exercise of rowing; and their bodies are elastically supple, with free sway from the hips and a Mercurial poise upon the ankle. Angelo showed these qualities almost in exaggeration. Moreover, he was rarely in repose, but moved with a singular brusque grace. — Black broad-brimmed hat thrown back upon his matted zazzera of dark hair. — Great fiery grey eyes, gazing intensely, with compulsive effluence of electricity — the wild glance of a Triton. — Short blond moustache; dazzling teeth; skin bronzed, but showing white and delicate through open front and sleeves of lilac shirt. — The dashing sparkle of this splendour, who looked to me as though the sea waves and the sun had made him in some hour of secret and unquiet rapture, was somehow emphasised by a curious dint dividing his square chin — a cleft that harmonised with smile on lips and steady fire in eyes. — By the way, I do not know what effect it would have upon a reader to compare eyes to opals. Yet Angelo's eyes, as I met them, had the flame and vitreous intensity of opals, as though the quintessential colour of Venetian waters were vitalised in them and fed from inner founts of passion. — This marvellous being had a rough hoarse voice which, to develop the simile of a sea-god, might have screamed in storm or whispered raucous messages from crests of tossing waves. He fixed and fascinated me.

Angelo Fusato at that date was hardly twenty-four years of age. He had just served his three years in the Genio, and returned to Venice.

This love at first sight for Angelo Fusato was an affair not merely of desire and instinct but also of imagination. He took hold of me by a hundred subtle threads of feeling, in which the powerful and radiant manhood of the splendid animal was intertwined with sentiment for Venice, a keen delight in the landscape of the lagoons, and something penetrative and pathetic in the man.

How sharp this mixed fascination was at the moment when I first saw Angelo, and how durable it afterwards beame through the moral struggles of our earlier intimacy, will be understood by anyone who reads the sonnets written about him in my published volumes. [Here he lists nearly 60 poems from Vagabunduli Libellus and Animi Figura.] . . . Many of these sonnets were mutilated in order to adapt them to the female sex. . . .

Eight years have elapsed since that first meeting at the Lido. A steady friendship has grown up between the two men brought by accident together under conditions so unpromising. But before I speak of this — the happy product of a fine and manly nature on his side and of fidelity and constant effort on my own — I must revert to those May days in 1881.

The image of the marvellous being I had seen for those few minutes on the Lido burned itself into my brain and kept me waking all the next night. I did not even know his name; but I knew where his master lived. In the morning I rose from my bed unrefreshed, haunted by the vision which seemed to grow in definiteness and to coruscate with phosphorescent fire. A trifle which occurred that day made me feel that my fate could not be resisted, and also allowed me to suspect that the man himself was not unapproachable. Another night of storm and longing followed. I kept wrestling with the anguish of unutterable things, in the deep darkness of the valley of vain desire — soothing my smarting sense of the impossible with idle pictures of what it would be to share the life of this superb being in some lawful and simple fashion.

In these waking dreams I was at one time a woman whom he loved, at another a companion in his trade — always somebody and something utterly different from myself; and as each distracting fancy faded in the void of fact and desert of reality, I writhed in the clutches of chimaera, thirsted before the tempting phantasmagoria of Maya. My good sense rebelled, and told me that I was morally a fool and legally a criminal. But the love of the impossible rises victorious after each fall given it by sober sense. Man must be a demigod of volition, a very Hercules, to crush the life out of that Antaeus, lifting it aloft from the soil of instinct and of appetite which eternally creates it new in his primeval nature.

Next morning I went to seek out Angelo, learned his name, and made an appointment with him for that evening on the Zattere. We were to meet at nine by the Church of the Gesuati. True to time he came, swinging along with military step, head erect and eager, broad chest thrown out, the tall strong form and pliant limbs in action like a creature of the young world's prime. All day I had been wondering how it was that a man of this sort could yield himself so lightly to the solicitation of a stranger. And that is a puzzle which still remains unsolved. I had been told that he was called il matto, or the madcap, by his friends; and I gathered that he was both poor and extravagant. But this did not appear sufficient to explain his recklessness — the stooping to what seemed so vile an act. I am now inclined, however, to imagine that the key to the riddle lay in a few simple facts. He was careless by nature, poor by circumstance, determined to have money, indifferent to how he got it. Besides, I know from what he has since told me that the gondoliers of Venice are so accustomed to these demands that they think little of gratifying the caprice of ephemeral lovers — within certain limits, accurately fixed according to a conventional but rigid code of honour in such matters. There are certain things to which a self-respecting man will not condescend, and any attempt to overstep the line is met by firm resistance.

Well: I took him back to Casa Alberti; and what followed shall be told in the ensuing sonnet, which is strictly accurate — for it was written with the first impression of the meeting strong upon me.

I am not dreaming. He was surely here
And sat beside me on this hard low bed;
For we had wine before us, and I said —
"Take gold: 'twill furnish forth some better cheer".
He was all clothed in white; a gondolier;
White trousers, white straw hat upon his head,
A cream-white shirt loose-buttoned, a silk thread
Slung with a charm about his throat so clear.
Yes, he was here. Our four hands, laughing, made
Brief havoc of his belt, shirt, trousers, shoes:
Till, mother-naked, white as lilies, laid
There on the counterpane, he bade me use
Even as I willed his body. But Love forbade —
Love cried, "Less than Love's best thou shalt refuse!"

Next morning, feeling that I could not stand the strain of this attraction and repulsion — the intolerable desire and the repudiation of mere fleshly satisfaction — I left Venice for Monte Generoso. There, and afterwards at Davos through the summer, I thought and wrote incessantly about Angelo. The series of sonnets entitled "The Sea Calls", and a great many of those indicated above were produced at this time.

In the autumn I returned alone to Venice having resolved to establish this now firmly rooted passion upon some solid basis. I lived in the Casa Barbier. Angelo was still in the service of General de Horsey. But we often met at night in my rooms; and I gradually strove to persuade him that I was no mere light-o-love, but a man on whom he could rely — whose honour, though rooted in dishonour, might be trusted. I gave him a gondola and a good deal of money. He seemed to be greedy, and I was mortified by noticing that he spent his cash in what I thought a foolish way — on dress and trinkets and so forth. He told me something about his history: how he had served three years in the Genio at Venice, Ferrara and Verona. Released from the army, he came home to find his mother dead in the madhouse at S. Clemente, his elder brother Carlo dead of sorrow and a fever after three weeks' illness, his father prostrated with grief and ruined, and his only remaining brother Vittorio doing the work of a baker's boy. The more I got to know the man, the more I liked him.

Yet there were almost insurmountable obstacles to be overcome. These arose mainly from the false position in which we found ourselves from the beginning. He not unnaturally classed me with those other men to whose caprices he had sold his beauty. He could not comprehend that I meant to be his friend, to serve and help him in all reasonable ways according to my power. Seeing me come and go on short flights, he felt convinced that one day or other my will would change and I should abandon him. A just instinct led him to calculate that our friendship, originating in my illicit appetite and his compliance, could not be expected to develop a sound and vigorous growth. The time must come, he reasoned, when this sickly plant would die and be forgotten. And then there was always between us the liaison of shame; for it is not to be supposed that I confined myself to sitting opposite the man and gazing into his fierce eyes of fiery opal. At the back of his mind the predominant thought, I fancy, was to this effect: "Had I not better get what I can out of the strange Englishman, who talks so much about his intentions and his friendship, but whose actual grasp upon my life is so uncertain?" I really do not think that he was wrong. But it made my task very difficult.

I discovered that he was living with a girl by whom he had two boys. They were too poor to marry. I told him that it was his duty to make her an honest woman, not being at that time fully aware how frequent and how binding such connections are in Venice. However, the pecuniary assistance I gave him enabled the couple to set up house; and little by little I had the satisfaction of perceiving that he was not only gaining confidence in me but also beginning to love me as an honest well- wisher.

I need not describe in detail the several stages by which this liaison between myself and Angelo assumed its present form. At last he entered my service as gondolier at fixed wages, with a certain allowance of food and fuel. He took many journeys with me, and visited me at Davos. We grew to understand each other and to conceal nothing. Everything I learned about him made me forget the suspicions which had clouded the beginning of our acquaintance, and closed my eyes to the anomaly of a comradeship which retained so much of passion on my part and of indulgence on his. I found him manly in the truest sense, with the manliness of a soldier and warm soft heart of an exceptionally kindly nature — proud and sensitive, wayward as a child, ungrudging in his service, willing and good-tempered, though somewhat indolent at the same time and subject to explosions of passion. He is truthful and sincere, frank in telling me what he thinks wrong about my conduct, attentive to my wants, perfect in his manners and behaviour — due allowance made for his madcap temperament, hoarse voice and wild impulsive freedom.

I can now look back with satisfaction on this intimacy. Though it began in folly and crime, according to the constitution of society, it has benefited him and proved a source of comfort and instruction to myself. Had it not been for my abnormal desire, I could never have learned to know and appreciate a human being so far removed from me in position, education, national quality and physique. I long thought it hopeless to lift him into something like prosperity — really because it took both of us so long to gain confidence in the stability of our respective intentions and to understand each other's character. At last, by constant regard on my side to his interests, by loyalty and growing affection on his side for me, the end has been attained. His father and brother have profited; for the one now plies his trade in greater comfort, and the other has a situation in the P & O service, which I got for him, and which enables him to marry. And all this good, good for both Angelo and myself, has its taproot in what at first was nothing better than a misdemeanour, punishable by the law and revolting to the majority of human beings.

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