L'Amour Socratique, 1776
Wednesday, 19 June 1776
Extract of a letter from the South of France.
"I hope you have not omitted to publish the caution I communicated to you in my last relative to the gambling societies in Paris and Lyons. I now find that all other vices, even the most enormous and unnatural, are so common in these warm climates, that they are practised with impunity, and spoken of with indifference, as the following single specimen will testify. Indeed I could give you an hundred, but I relate this as a friend of mine had it from the present El of .
"His Lordship being invited to dine and spend the day at a Gentleman's country-house near Lyons, the hospitable inviter took occasion before they set out to intimate to his company the elegant repas he had provided, and added, that as nothing might be wanting to compleat the gratification of all their appetites, he had ordered some fine girls and a boy to attend; then turning to L, as the first in rank, and the only stranger, desired to know his Lordship's gout [taste], and whether he would take the first or last of the proffered dainties. My L concealed his surprise, and said that all his pursuits were of the natural kind. The same question was put to a French Gentleman, the next in rank or age, who with perfect sang froid, and a high shrug of the shoulders, replied, Cela m'est egal, l'un et l'autre [It's all the same to me, one or the other], just as it proves convenient to the rest of the company.
"Lord Chesterfield remarks, that as reason and philosophy have gained ground in France, and both have, says his Lordship, very rapidly, fancy and invention have fallen off.
"If this observation be a just one of France, it cannot be applied to our own country, where much reason and philosophy is to be found, yet fancy and invention are with us as fertile as ever they were, or the Ministers of Great-Britain could never have fancied it practicable to make the Americans obey their mandates, and fancy they had a right to do so, in direct violation to their charters, or that the American would not invent some way or other to give them an Oliver for their Rowland." (Morning Post)
Thursday, 20 June 1776
For the MORNING POST.
I Am a very old man, and never thought I should take up the pen to write a letter in a newspaper; but an extract of a letter from the South of France has induced me to trouble you with a few lines, as I know your paper is universally read, and that every information ought to be imparted to an enlightened people like the English.
Your correspondent must be a very young traveller, he must have gone post without stopping at Lyons. He cannot like me have resided in almost every capital of Italy, Germany, and France, or he could never express so much surprize at the proffered dainties of the French Marquis. He would then have known, that England is the only country, where any violent prejudice exists againt l'amour Socratique: talk of it at Paris, to any Frenchman of fashion he stops by a shrug and a chacun a son gout. Je ne me soucie pas des amours d'autrui Il se plait et tout est dit: par hazard ce n'est pas mon gout [each to his own taste. I don't care about other people's loves One pleases himself and that's all there is to it: by chance it's not my taste] And in that city where every the most minute, every the most private transaction is instantly known to the police, that vice, tho' almost publicly practised, is never taken legal cognizance of. In Germany, particularly at Vienna, you would be almost certain of the question alluded to in every bordel of fashion; and Mynheer Vandertrone, whose very looks might dismay an army, recites with equal sang froid his amours with his Ganymede, or his Phillis. In Russia, spight of all its frosts, we know of a General, who boasts in company that he has amused himself with his whole regiment, and with triumph in his eyes, asks you, if so fine a body of men were ever before seen together? That great warrior Frederic's taste is unknown to none; and it would be an affront to the understandings of your readers, to descant on its universality in Italy, and the eastern world. How would a French, or a German officer laugh at the subject of an impending trial! I doubt if he could be brought to believe it possible that it should be made a point of legal discussion.
I have been silent on the subject of Holland, never having resided there long together; but it is I know sometimes in that place very severely punished.
Many of your readers are by this time become a good deal surprized, that this nation not less remarkable for its strides in the paths of vice, than in those of every liberal improvement, has not also cast aside this glorious prejudice. But those who have travelled, and seen as much as I have, are not in the least so. It never can be othewise! It is one of the many peculiar favours of heaven, that it has pleased to stamp with a deep impression those unhappy errors from nature among the English. In the countries I have named, the most noble, the most brave, the most generous, the most gallant, are alike tainted with this gout, and no prejudice prevails against it. Reflect a moment on its known, or supposed admirers here, and wonder then (if you can) that it is held in the most intire detestation. It there never touches the general character of the man, it here totally engrosses, and forms it.
An Old Traveller.
June 18, 1776.
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "L'Amour Socratique, 1776",
Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 7 June 2021