Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rolfe, Sturgis and Beardsley in stone...

I have been going through some postcards and these three just fell out of a pile together, which is a little odd because they all have a connection, one way or another to people this blog concerns itself with.

The frantically busy London street scene is of the Mansion House junction and the road which leads off away from the viewer, with a church on the left hand side, is Cheapside where Frederick Rolfe was born, in fact Rolfe was born just literally a stones throw, maybe 70 yards from that church, which is of course, St Mary le Bow. It's a bit difficult to date this card but certainly this is Cheapside at a time when Rolfe would have known it.

The next card to fall from the box was the sepia toned card of Compton cemetery, which is not too far from here and which I have blogged about because of the famous chapel and the gallery of G F Watts paintings. In fact the long colonnade which you can see in the postcard, is the backdrop from the Watts' graves, but the one you can see in the foreground is the grave of Julian Sturgis (1846-1904). There is a more full-on picture of the grave in one of my Flickr sets. Julian Sturgis was involved with the Royal Literary Fund when Rolfe was trying to get money out of them and is the older brother of Howard Overing Sturgis, author of Belchamber and the school romance Tim.

Finally, the gargoyle on the top of Notre Dame in Paris. The very one, I believe, that Aubrey Beardsley wanted to be modelled on in his famous portrait photograph by Frederick Evans.

Three Fairly Random Paperback Covers

A box of books just in had these, which caught my eye because, well, they were eyecatching...
  • The C. S. Lewis cover painting is credited to Bernard Symancyk.
  • The Perry Mason cover is signed 'Michel' .
  • The Saint cover has no credit or signature that I can see.

Monday, July 28, 2008

C R Ashbee, Gays, Arts and Crafts

A few weeks ago I posted here about my puzzlement with the socialist writer William Paine. As a result of that post I received a wonderful email about the connections between the Uranians and the Arts and Crafts Movement in both Britain and the US and in particular about Charles Robert Ashbee (above). The author of the email has kindly allowed me to post his musings here and I suppose it goes without saying that one hopes someone is going to take up his challenge of a history of the Arts and Crafts Movement and homosexuality.

"I was intrigued by your interest in William Paine.and what you identify as "erotic socialism". One connection you might pursue is C. R. Ashbee, who articulated a similar brand of erotic socialism and was homosexual. Ashbee's Guild of the Handicraft in Chipping Campden served apparently as the locus for some of his romantic affairs as well as the model for many of the socialist "arts & crafts" societies and communes in Britain and the U.S. Ashbee was married, but his wife apparently knew of and approved of his same-sex affairs. Ashbee was far more prolific and influential than Paine, but one wonders if they met or knew of each other.

My twin interests in the Arts & Crafts Movement and in Uranian literature has lead me to note a number of connections between the two. In Britain, of course, Edward Carpenter and his associates are well-known and researched advocates of an erotic socialism. Here in the U.S., Terence Kissack's recent book Free Comrades: Anarchism and Homosexuality in the United States 1895-1917 has revealed similar but long forgotten connections here. There is most definately a gay history of the Arts & Crafts Movement yet to be written."

and then later, my correspondent added:

"Do have a look at Alan Crawford's excellent biography of Ashbee. He goes into some detail about the overlapping connections between the British A&C and the British Uranians. If I recall correctly, for example, Ashbee and George Ives were good friends. Ives, of course, had his own notions of a gay utopia.

Carpenter was a member of Wlliam Morris' Socialist League. Rossetti famously complained of Swinburne and Solomon chasing each other around his house in the nude (boys will be boys). Jason Edwards has recently detailed the connections between Alfred Gilbert, Frederic Leighton, Wilde and others. Of course, Shannon and Ricketts' had a huge influence book and theater design. I also have my suspicions about C. F. A. Voysey. His international art journal The Studio was full of von Gloeden art photos and Uranian poetry. Famously, a primary venue Uranian poetry, The Artist and Journal of Home Culture, was essentially an interior design magazine (Martha Stewart with a twist).

As might be expected, Wilde is a central figure around which much of the recent research on the connections between gays in art, literature, architecture, interior design, and theater design in the A&C period. Gere & Hoskins' The House Beautiful: Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetic Interior and Mary Blanchard's Oscar Wilde's America come to mind. We also tend to ignore Saint Oscar's radical politics. "The Soul of Man under Socialism" is somewhat familiar, but take a look at his early play Vera, Or the Nihilists. Not great theater, but it won him the admiration and loyalty of anarchists worldwide.

Here in the States, we have architect Louis Sullivan chasing the boys in Chicago. Douglas Shand-Tucci's two-volume biography on Ralph Adams Cram and his very gay circle is full of possible connections that need to be explored more fully. And on the political side, recent work on Walt Whitman, particularly Michael Robinson's Worshipping Walt: The Whitman Disciples, explores another important link between Whitmanism, socialist ideas and gay sensibilities in the U.S. and Britain."

A huge thank you to my corresondent on these matters and I am sure that his erudition and passion for this subject will be of interest to readers of this blog. N'est pas?

Treasure hunting on a balmy evening...

So, if you're reading this from the UK, you'll be aware that the last few days have been hot and hot and more hot... one of the most pleasant things though about living in a city by the sea is those evening strolls along the beach or the sea wall - promenading indeed as our Victorian forebears would have said. In Portsmouth we have a choice, we can promenade at the eastern end of the city's beach which is slightly more rugged, much emptier and affords wonderful views out across the English channel to the anchorage in the distance where the tankers and container ships lay up for the night. Or the western end which faces off with the Isle of Wight across the Solent and is full of amusment arcades, ice cream parlours, a funfair and, of course, semi-naked young men.

Surpisingly, it's always a genuine choice but last night we braved the testoserone fuelled, semi-naked, tanned and toned part of the beach to visit the amusement arcade for one of life's most guilty pleasures... you know those stupid arcade machines that push piles of two pence pieces backwards and forwards and where you introduce more and more 2ps in order to make tottering piles of cash finally fall over the edge and into your pockets? Of course, they're designed so you never get out as much as you put in, but that's not the best way to play because placed on top of the piles of heaving cash are treasures which might also just be induced to fall into the chute. Play for money and you'll always loose; play for trashy plastic prizes and you'll be a winner every time. Just look at all the juicy treasure R and I came home with! :-)

Normal Service Will be Resumed...


I'm sorry to have been away for a while. I don't know quite why that happens sometimes, certainly not through any lack of things to blog about. Without going into one of those blog posts about blogging which everyone seems so much to dislike I think I'd best just leave it at saying that normal service is now being resumed...

I'm particularly grateful to 'commenters' and correspondents and my apologies to those who might have been waiting a while for a response and acknowledgement from me.

Kapitano, thanks for syaing hi way back when I posted about William Paine, there's a little more about Paine and his 'erotic socialism' (for lack of a better term) to be posted shortly. For now, everyone else should be aware what a damn fine blog of you own you have: erudite, witty and thoughtful without being too 'arch'. Loved it. I also loved the little piece recently on your blog about emotional states which other languanges have words for that we don't!

John C, as ever you have been kind in keeping up with some of the posts here so a wave to you too! I did eventually finish Jekyll and Hyde. I wasn't familiar with the work you mentioned suggesting that it could be read as a fable of gay life and, for a while I was a bit sceptical, thinking surely this could be a fable of any number of different 'repressed' feelings deemed inappropriate in Victorian England. However, as the story goes on I began to see (or feel almost) just how sexually charged the language is throughout and how the vocabulary does seem to be the same as some Victorian discussions of sexuality that one finds occasionally within the discourse of 'unfettered desire' and 'shame'.

Clixchix, I'm so very aware that I owe you an email and I promise that will be forthcoming. Just to say here though that the idea that you went and bought a copy of Jourdan's Two on my recommendation is rather scary. I suppose it just goes to show how little I actually expect the things I write here to be taken account of!

Thevina, is it strange that I can't think of my own 'most erotic kiss' - and yet, on my list of 'things I'd like to do with a good looking guy' it's always close to number one?

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Most Erotic Kiss I've Ever Read

Now, I could tell you all about the most erotic kiss I've ever participated in but that would be a little bit self-revealing, which as you know if you've read this blog a while, I'm not averse to. But I'm not in the mood for that tonight.

However, I have been in London today and had to suffer an inexorably long train journey. So I was glad I'd brought along a book. I haven't quite finished it yet but the first chapter of this book is basically just the description of a kiss, a first kiss, between two boys who are just on the tipping point of falling in love with each other. Obviously this isn't quite the same as Dickens spending 60 pages describing someone's ascent of a flight of stairs, there is build up and reflection and so on, but it remains true that the chapter is basically about one first kiss. And it truely is the most erotic passage I think I've read for a very long time and certainly the most erotic kiss I have ever read. Sadly, the one thing I can't do is to quote you a bit - sorry to be such a tease - but because it's the whole chapter, there simply isn't a piece of the whole that I can carve out which wouldn't sound silly or overblown or something else unhelpful, on its own. Read the book.

Two by Eric Jourdan or, if you read French it was originally Les Mauvais Anges.

Barnett Freedman Cover

Sorry, I've been away a little while, not literally, just away in the real world. A short post to come back with just to show off this lovely dustjacket. It came with a recent purchase of books and is by Barnett Freedman, who studied under Paul Nash. I love 1930s-50s dustjackets and its a real struggle not to buy them when I see them. This, however, came in a lot I bought recently and, sadly, I have had to put it up for sale. I haven't done a hufe about of research but I believe Freedman did a number of jacket designed for De La Mare's books.

Responses to all those people who've been kind enough to message here or to send email are coming soon.
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