My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters through the Centuries

Copyright © 1997, 1998 by Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited.


About the Book


My Dear Boy is an anthology of gay love letters documenting the heartbreak and joy of love between men for almost two thousand years. Emperor Marcus Arelius, Bo Juyi, Saint Anselm, Erasmus, Michelangelo, Mashida Toyonoshin, Thomas Gray, William Beckford, Walt Whitman, Tchaikovsky, Henry James, Countee Cullen, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg are just a few of the correspondents included, who range from kings and aristocrats, musicians and artists, military men and monks, to farm labourers and herring merchants, political activists and aesthetes, black poets and Japanese actors, drag queens and hustlers.

Important letters by Marsilio Ficino, Federico Gonzaga, Henrich von Kleist, Charles-Victor de Bonstetten, Johannes von Muller, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, and Jean Cocteau have been specialy translated for this anthology.

Some of the letters come from books proudly published by their writers and some have been published in newspapers and pamphlets as part of political and religious attacks; some come from court records (from the Inquisition to the Old Bailey) and some were discovered in a cardboard box after a house clearance; many have narrowly escaped censorship and suppression.

This richly diverse collection of letters illustrates the basic theme of romantic love: infatuation, longing, sex, separation, the fear of rejection, jealousy, the joy of reunion, celebration, and debates about "marriage" and "infidelity" in gay relationships. Whether the affairs were stormy or tender, they are, above all, testimonials to an enduring love.

A full introduction charts the survival of gay love letters throughout history, and each selection is introduced with a biographical note describing the context in which the letters were written. Illustrated with more than two dozen photographs.

About the Author

RICTOR NORTON is the author of the pioneering historical study Mother Clap's Molly House: The Gay Subculture in England 1700-1830 (1992). He taught one of the earliest courses on gay and lesbian literature (Florida State University, 1971) and co-edited the first all-gay issue of an academic journal (College English, 1974). His book The Homosexual Literary Tradition (1973) was based on his Ph.D. study of homosexual themes in English Renaissance literature. He then emigrated to London and worked full-time at the fortnightly newspaper Gay News from 1974 to 1979. Many of Rictor Norton's essays for Gay Sunshine on gay history and literature were reprinted in Gay Roots, vols. I & II (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1991, 1993). He is a contributor to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. His books include The Myth of the Modern Homosexual: Queer History and the Search for Cultural Unity (1997). He lives in London.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Gay Love Letters through the Centuries

ca. 139 AD
Emperor Marcus Aurelius & Marcus Cornelius Fronto
3rd century AD
Flavius Philostratos & Various Boys
ca. 385
Paulinus of Nola & Austonius
early ninth century
Bo Juyi & Yuan Zhen
ca. 1071–1075
Saint Anselm & Gundulf & William
early medieval
Alcuin of York, Marbod of Rennes & Walafrid Strabo
early twelfth century
Baudri of Bourgeuil & Various Lovers
ca. 1130–1140
Hilary the Englishman to a Boy of Angers & an English Boy
ca. 1100
A Spanish Monk Encourages a Boy to Indecency
1473
Marsilio Ficino & Giovanni Cavalcanti
1482–1490
Desiderius Erasmus & Servatius
1528
Federico Gonzaga & Pietro Aretino
1533
Michelangelo & Tommaso Cavalieri & Febo di Poggio
1573
Hubert Languet & Sir Philip Sidney
1620–1623
King James I & VI & George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham
1664
Francisco Correa Netto to Manoel Viegas
1667
Mashida Toyonoshin & Moriwaki Gonkuro
seventeenth century
A Buddhist Priest & Okajima Uneme
1693
Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland, & Captain Edward Wilson
1727–1731
John, Lord Hervey, & Stephen Fox
1746–1762
Johann Joachim Winckelmann & Reinhold von Berg
1770
Thomas Gray & Charles-Victor de Bonstetten
1774–1802
Johannes von Muller & Charles-Victor de Bonstetten
1779–1780
Alexander Hamilton & John Laurens
1807
William Beckford & Master Saunders
1805
Henrich von Kleist & Ernst von Pfuel
1807
Lord Byron & John Edleston
1809
Rev. John Church & Ned
1826
Thomas Withers & James Hammond
1844–1849
Hans Christian Andersen & The Hereditary Grand-Duke of Saxe-Weimer-Eisenach
1851
Herman Melville & Nathaniel Hawthorne
1860–1870
Walt Whitman & Fred Vaughan & Lewis Brown & Peter Doyle
1865
Richard Wagner & King Ludwig II
1864
Brother Augustine & Samuel Hase
1866–1870
Edward Fitzgerald & Joseph Fletcher
1868–1870
Ernest Boulton, Frederick Park, Louis Hurt, John Fiske & Lord Arthur Pelham Clinton
1879 Sir Edmund Gosse & William Hamo Thornycroft 1886–1896
Edward Carpenter & George Merrill
1891–1893
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky & Bob Davidov
1893–1897
Oscar Wilde & Lord Alfred Douglas
1899–1902
Henry James & Hendrik Andersen
1907–1909
F. Holland Day & Nardo
1909
Frederick William Rolfe (Baron Corvo)
1912
Rupert Brooke & Denham Russell-Smith
1917–1918
Wilfred Owen & Siegfried Sassoon
1923
Countee Cullen & Alain Leroy Locke
1923–1924
Hart Crane & Wilbur Underwood
1924–1925
F. O. Matthiessen & Russell Cheney
1934–1935
Lawrence of Arabia & "Sir"
1938–1939
Jean Cocteau & Jean Marais
1924, 1927, 1960
J. R. Ackerley & Ideal Friends
1940–1942
Ralph Hall & Montague Glover
1949
W. H. Auden & Chester Kallman
1937
Stanley Haggart & Harry Hay
1964
Hubert Huncke & Noah
1947
Neal Cassady & Allen Ginsberg
1948–1950
Pier Paolo Pasolini
1953–1954
William Burroughs & Kiki
1957–1959
Colin Spencer & John Tasker
1958–1960
Allen Ginsberg & Peter Orlovsky


Reviews:

Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review:"I want to impress you with the amazing variety of men represented in My Dear Boy. ... from 9th century Chinese civil servants separated for years to W.H. Auden accomodating his soulmate's promiscuity. There are great stories wherever you dip into this perfect book. ... Lawrence of Arabia's instructions to a soldier on exactly how to whip him are alone worth the purchase price."

Jesse Monteagudo, Badpuppy Review:"My Dear Boy was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. It is a valuable historical resource. Even more importantly, it reminds us of the resilience and universality of male love. Give a copy to the man you love."


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