This is an excellent book that I highly recommend for all. I give this book five stars. An excellent look into the history of how homosexuality was viewed in Victorian England.
by Autumn Turner (via NetGalley)
I enjoyed this extremely detailed, well research history of the struggle of homosexual life in the late 1800s- early 1900s. Symonds, Ellis and Carpenter bravely used their writing abilities and risked their reputations to fight the beliefs/laws of the time. The research was so extensive, about 25% of the book contains the sources for this exploration. This book is very academic in its telling. Highly recommend to anyone with a deep interest in gay history.
by Jeff Linamen
This was exceptionally well written with buckets of knowledge on something that is very important. I like that we see the lives of three men who have varying points of views and what they did with their lives. Although I disagreed with one of these men, I found that I did respect their choice and their reasons. I enjoyed this book a lot. I hope that a lot of people get helpful information from this book.
by Savannah Poulin
The sub-title says it all – this is a thoroughly researched and detailed account of the fight for homosexual rights in England 1891-1908. It explores the interrelated lives and work of 3 key people in this struggle - Edward Carpenter, John Addington Symonds and Havelock Ellis. Although it’s a fairly academic text (about a quarter of the book comprises the author’s sources) it’s nevertheless an eminently readable and accessible book and an extremely interesting one. These three writers made significant and important contributions to the scientific understanding of homosexuality, and the book is an important document of social history, as well as a fascinating account of the lives of each of them and their circle. Enormously enjoyable and informative.
by Mandy Jenkinson
Terrific and much needed book. Sheds light on a period that was very much tight lipped with little definitively known. A terrific historical exploration of the context which shaped modern perceptions of sexuality both socially and legally. As a writer of historical fiction, it will prove an invaluable resource.
by Jay Ian
I wanted to read this book as I am really interested in historical novels. This is a part of history I know very little about. There has obviously been a lot of research carried out to write this book. Every part of the book seems to have been well researched and thought about. There is a great deal of information packed in.
by Julie Hosford (via NetGalley)
This book is subtitled “The Fight for Homosexual Rights in England 1891-1908”. Effectively it is a discussion, with some analysis, of the written works, and collaboration of three men, John Addington Symonds, Edward Carpenter and Havelock Ellis. Just over 70% of the book, divided into 12 sections, is devoted to the discussion, the remainder consists of a Bibliography and Notes (645 of them).
in the wake of the Labouchère Clause in the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, the Cleveland Street Scandal and the prosecution of Oscar Wilde, life was particularly difficult for male homosexuals in Britain in the period covered by this book and British publishers were very reluctant to handle books which dealt with the subject in any way.
The “Fight” here was to gain recognition of the unfairness of the law by publishing books and articles which sought to explain homosexuality and to ask for the right of private expression of it to be legalised. There was no movement parallel to that for gay rights which found public and vocal expression from the late 1960’s onward.
The author holds a doctorate in intellectual history and the text is somewhat academic. This is not light reading, but the combination of biography, history and analysis of text should appeal to a wide audience within and outwith the LGBTQ community
The author is to be congratulated for shedding light on a period in homosexual history which tends to be dominated by Oscar & Co. at the expense of others, such as Edward Carpenter, knowledge of whose life and works is especially deserving of a wider audience.
by Eric Bruce (via NetGalley)
This is a fantastic book on the lives and work of three gay-rights pioneers - John Addington Symonds and Edward Carpenter (both gay themselves), and Havelock Ellis whose wife was a lesbian. It is a strange kind of history because the focus is on their correspondences with each other and the texts and pamphlets they published, so while contextual information is provided, it's really just to set the stage for exploring these documents.
Thematically, the book is quite messy, and this proves both blessing and curse. On the negative side, the ordering of information can be quite haphazard, and sometimes the author switches from one person to the other rather suddenly, making it difficult to read. There is also a sense that this book is more the culmination of various research notes than a single book. For example, stantements repeat:
"But Whitman had presented his man-loving poems in the context of the reunification of the American nation, and any imputation of carnality would have been highly damaging to his reputation."
"After all, he had presented his man-loving poems in the context of the reunification of the American nation, and the imputation of carnality, long voiced by some in his own country, would have been highly damaging to his European reputation."
And this makes it seem as though the author has info on cards and is putting it together, somewhat clumsily.
However, the messiness also means a lot of diverse topics can be touched upon. So the beginning insists on the contingency involved with these men coming into contact with each other and getting each other to write what they did, but that quickly gives way to a narrative about their writings to each other (with the Oscar Wilde trial shaking things up right in the middle, suddenly making publishing much harder), their differences in origin, motives, and stances, and near the end takes up the phenomenon of how their love lives sometimes cut across class (but the author treats their claims about the class-based revolutionary potential of same-sex desire with appropriate skepticism). There's also interesting bits about how they were consciously changing the conceptual apparatus of their society - Ellis, for example tries to talk about "inversion" as abnormal, in the same way genius and criminality is abnormal, which is to say not necessarily pathological. Finally, the book ends with Carpenter as the true hero, having inspired others with his unwavering belief in the dignity of who he was.
It's a short book and the disorganization does play out in its favour sometimes, but it probably could benefit from great sign-posting, and ordering of ideas, because by the end there's a lot that's thrown at you and it's hard to put it all in place. Still, it's an excellent introduction to this period, and I look forward to reading more about it.
by Shared Pandian
When one thinks of the history of gay thought and the fight for regarding same sex love, one generally remembers Oscar Wilde or Magnus Hirschfeld. The names of Havelock Ellis, Edward Carpenter, and John Symonds are not known. These three men fought to legalize same sex relationships by providing historical and original thought to this subject that is surprisingly modern in thought. "Born this way" is not original to Lady Gaga. Although the book gets bogged down in the minutia of publishing articles in an environment of censorship and prosecution, it is always fascinating in the fight. An extensive bibliography is provided.
by Robert Graziano
Dr Brian Anderson is an independent researcher with a special interest in the history of Victorian attitudes towards human sexuality, especially homosexuality