London Lecture 13 February 2007
UNACKNOWLEDGED LEGISLATORS, UNLIKELY REVOLUTIONARIES
When Shelley, in his Defence of Poetry, called poets the “unacknowledged legislators of the world” he was playing on the distinction between the poet as the visionary who foresees a different future, and the practical, down-to-earth legislator who one day may follow that inspiration and make the vision a reality. Yet, now and then, there are individual poets who seek to usurp the task of the legislator and undertake concrete steps to reform the world through their poetry – Thomas Hood’s “Song of the Shirt” or Edwin Markham’s “Man with the Hoe”, for instance, or less distinguished verses found in such collections as Poems of Child Labor, issued by the National Child Labor Committee in New York in 1924. Other artists, particularly visual artists, will attempt to influence public opinion by valorising their subjects; we will have occasion to speak more of this strategy later in this lecture. But it is rare for a group of poets to devote themselves to the attempt to instigate a revolutionary change in public opinion on an issue – and certainly the Uranian poets of the late 19th and early 20th century – an eminently middle-class and establishment collection of clergymen, schoolmasters, art dealers, university professors, chemists and professional writers – would seem to be as unlikely a group of revolutionaries as one could imagine.
When one thinks of the movement for homosexual liberation, one generally does not think of England or America – of the English-speaking world, in other words – but of Germany, and then principally of Magnus Hirschfeld and his Wissenschaftlich-humanitäre Komitee. Those more familiar with the territory may also know of his opponents in Germany, who thought in a different framework, not that of forensic medicine but of male culture, and who gathered around Adolf Brand and his magazine Der Eigene, and later Hans Blüher, with his theories on male bonding, and also included figures as diverse as the educational reformer Gustav Wyneken with his theories on the “pedagogical Eros”, the elitist Benedict Friedlaender, the artist Elisàr von Kupffer (whose anthology of texts on ‘love of comrades and friendship’ probably inspired Edward Carpenter to produce his Ioläus: An Anthology of Friendship), and the anarchist John Henry Mackay – although the last, probably the most radical thinker of the whole lot, shared little with the others except his total detestation for Hirschfeld and his ‘third sex’ theories. In terms of Anglo-Saxon agitation on sexual issues, one thinks of isolated individuals: of Edward Carpenter, of John Addington Symonds – and not of a movement. But although its openly (well, semi-openly) organised phase (and its transatlantic connections) came later, there was in fact a movement in English-speaking countries, one which shared with Hirschfeld’s German opponents an ideology based on culture in general, and male culture in specific, and like them too, one based on homosexual relations between unequal partners, involving some form of pedagogy – but with a more general democratic ideal than most of their German compatriots.
And what was this movement? The Uranian poets. I know – that’s absurd. But that’s what I want to talk about tonight.
Most of us will recognise the Uranians from Timothy d’Arch Smith’s pioneering study of them, Love in Earnest, published in 1970. There – based upon the evidence available in that day – they are described as 1) a loosely connected group of 2) British poets who 3) celebrated age-structured homosexual relationships. Thirty-five years of subsequent research has altered all three of these estimates of them.
A primary source for d’Arch Smith in identifying the group was a sale catalogue printed in 1924, entitled A Catalogue of Selected Books from the Private Library of a Student of Boyhood, Youth and Comradeship, offering the library of one of the central figures in the group. The first section comprises a list of 87 books of poetry, which has generally been accepted (once some World War I poetry collections are discounted) as the basis for understanding the group. Only two of the books are American – one of them (evidently recently published and not yet in the hands of the cataloguer when the list was prepared, as the title is given incorrectly) was an anthology issued in New York in 1924, Men and Boys, which d’Arch Smith himself acknowledges “still remains the best collection of Uranian poetry”. That fact alone – that some unknown Americans had produced the best collection of the work of this British group – should have alerted us that there was something more going on that we did not see, but when doing the introduction to a scholarly reprint of the anthology five years after d’Arch Smith’s initial mention of it, I didn’t uncover any information that could have revealed the connections either, although I did manage to track the identity of the anthologist, Edward Mark Slocum, an American chemist and amateur literary scholar and poet working on his doctorate in chemistry at Columbia University at the time the anthology was compiled. One of the prime factors which has changed our impression of the Uranians in the thirty-five years since d’Arch Smith’s book has been the gradual discovery of letters from British Uranians (including Leonard Green and George Cecil Ives) to Slocum, and from these being able to track his movements, showing that he served as a link between the British poets and a group of poets in America who were dealing with similar themes. A slow unravelling of the identities of the American group, based on those whose work appeared in Men and Boys, and further research by Stephen Foster and myself uncovering others who did not appear in the anthology, has now also indicated that there were shared influences running both ways between the Americans and British. Although the Americans, as one might expect, were more influenced by Whitman, thanks to Symonds and Carpenter the ‘poet of adhesiveness’ was influential among at least some of the British Uranians; on the other hand, through figures like George Edward Woodberry – the only other American poet that Xavier Mayne, in his Intersexes, deems worth mentioning along with Whitman – and the Boston aesthete, publisher and photographer F. Holland Day, both of whom had fallen under the spell of Walter Pater’s work while students at Harvard in the late 1870s, the influence of Pater, so widespread in the British Uranians, was also strong in America. Presently, we must acknowledge that we were misled by the absence of American work in the Catalogue of Selected Books, representing the taste (or contacts) of one collector, and we must now see the Uranians as a transatlantic group, with shared influences, themes – and actual personal connections.
We have also been forced to re-evaluate the group in terms of its degree of internal organisation, and other publishing which its members undertook. Many of these things were already mentioned by Smith – not perhaps George Cecil Ives’s Order of Chaeronea, but certainly the British Society of the Study of Sex Psychology’s sub-section on homosexuality, the magazine The Quorum, such theoretical texts as Ives’s Graeco-Roman View of Youth, Edward Perry Warren’s Defence of Uranian Love, and William Paine’s two programmatic volumes on an erotic socialism based on male bonding, Shop Slavery and Emancipation and The New Aristocracy of Comradeship – but these were treated as curious sidelights, not investigated for their relationship with the poetry, as part of a coherent ideological programme, or acknowledged as a concrete organisational expression by a central core of the group. This too has changed over the past 35 years. With the opening of George Ives’s archive, he has begun to take a more central role in the group than Smith had assigned to him based on the information in hand in 1970; the best reflection of this is Matt Cook’s 2003 study London and the Culture of Homosexuality 1885-1914, which uses Ives as the lens for viewing the whole development of homosexuality in London through those three decades. D’Arch Smith himself, in a series of disconnected and highly obscure articles, has also remedied this somewhat. In his introduction to the 2001 reprint of the Quorum he treats that magazine as a programmatic publishing effort by the Uranians, and he deals in greater depth with the Order of Chaeronea and the BSSSP in his “Montague Summers, the Marquis de Sade and the Curious World of the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology”, in Strange Attractor in 2004. Even then he treats the Order primarily from the standpoint of the occult, telling us the BSSSP is an “exterior lodge – to speak masonically – of a secret society [the order]”. While this is perhaps entirely understandable, given d’Arch Smith’s other areas of expertise, it might be handier to see both these groups – and particularly the Order – through the lens of Hobsbawm’s Primitive Rebels, where he notes that at the beginning of subversive social movements, before they have found the formats that are best suited for their own circumstances, these groups tend to adopt the organisational forms of other movements – particularly the Masonic movement, which offers the secrecy and hierarchy they often need. Thus one should not be misled by the format Ives chose for his Order: this is precisely how a ’primitive’ radical social movement would have cloaked itself.
So, although their focus may have been in London, the Uranians were not a purely British group, nor were they merely a loosely organised literary circle. What of their ideas?
The Uranians are famous – or infamous – for being “paidophilic poetasters”, as Walter Breen – otherwise known as J.Z. Eglinton – labelled them, and d’Arch Smith documents that aspect of their work extensively. It is not for nothing, it would appear, that their American collection was entitled Men and Boys. Yet the attention given to that particular aspect of their work has obscured something else. The relationships they wrote about – and advocated – were indeed asymmetrical, unequal relationships, and the inequality of age-structured relationships was major part of that picture. But what we are missing is that there were also poets among them for whom the relationships which were their subject might be with a person closer in age, with another adult male – albeit a young adult – but the asymmetry in the relationship was one of social class. No one could accuse Edward Carpenter of being a boy-lover, but he writes of “The thick-thighed hot course-fleshed young bricklayer with the strap around his waist... [who] shall lay me: he shall tap me into place with the handle of his trowel; / and to him I will utter the word which with my lips I have not spoken...” (yes, he really wrote that... those lovely days before Freud made everything so obvious...), and both Carpenter and Horatio Brown, another of the Uranians who was better known for his eye for guardsmen in their late teens and early twenties, had a liking for enginemen. A stoker with “well-knit loins” brought about an epiphany for the former, as described in the “In the Drawing Rooms” section of his Towards Democracy; the latter, in his “To a Great-Western Broadgauge Engine and its Stoker”, hymns a stoker as though he were a modern Apollo: “Drive on!... Blow back the curly, close-cropped hair!” But the younger man from the lower class did not need to be a manual worker; in “Bored at a London Musical” Brown wrote of a concert he attended with heterosexual friends, “I heard the whole laborious din / Piano, ‘cello, violin; / And so, perhaps, they hardly guessed, / I liked their footman, John, the best.” And rather more seriously, Roden Noel, in his “To J.H.: Comrade, my comrade” writes a moving elegy to “my brother, lowly, poor, unknown...” There were many teachers among the Uranians, from William Johnson Cory at their start, through the prolific John Gambril Nicholson and Arnold W. Smith, author of A Boy’s Absence, and the schoolmaster and World War I casualty T.P. Cameron Wilson, with his touching “Mathematical Master to his Dullest Pupil”, I came to you and caught your eagle wings and gloomed your soul with Algebra and things, and cast a net of pale Geometry wherein your laughter struggled to be free...” For them their pupils – and the boys with whom they had emotional and erotic (I am not saying sexual) relationships – would have been more or less at their own class level (and sometimes above it). But equally, in many cases, at least in their fancies there was also this cross-class connection present. John Gambril Nicholson writes
I like the boy who earns his bread; The boy who holds my horse’s head, The boy who tidies up the bar, The boy who hawks the Globe and Star. Smart-looking boys are in my line; The lad who gives my boots a shine, The lad who works the life below, The lad that’s lettered G.P.O.
(As we have been instructed in histories of Oscar Wilde’s activities with ‘perverted telegraph boys’, the telegraph boy’s uniform and buttons were a guarantee that he was literate, healthy, and had passed a check on his character.) The Rev. E.E. Bradford similarly writes that
A little Lord, in sweet disguise, Kneels down to black my boots... A Prince in ragged raiment cries The names of evening papers; And several serve in humble wise As grocers’ boys or drapers’...
On the other side of the Atlantic, Nelson Antrim Crawford too writes of a Greek shoeshine boy, and judge Walter Malone has an eye for a Greek boy waiter
...As I look Upon his poor surroundings here to-night I mutter, “Evil days have come to thee And thine, O boy of Hellas!” But I muse Deeply upon him, and his fine young face Allures me more and more...”
And for those familiar with American popular culture you have the newsboys and shoeshine boys of the best-selling writer of his era, Horatio Alger, and in the genre canvases of the British-born New York genre painter J.G. Brown.
One of the more interesting – and unfortunately little-known – figures among the Uranian circle, not a poet but a political writer and one-time president of a Working Boy’s Athletic Club, William Paine (the British Library catalogues him as “Paine, William, writer on social issues”), certainly drawing in part on Edward Carpenter, indeed makes this class difference the cornerstone of his whole programme of an erotic socialism. In his first book, Shop Slavery and Emancipation, he recommends that “the way out” of the oppression of the shop assistant in the ‘live-in’ system prior to the First World War is what he calls “reckless love of comrades”, by which he means love “of a defensive or offensive kind, as it may exist between two young men of equal age, who, in the first warm generous feelings of youth, are prepared to act with a fine disregard of consequences in standing loyally by each other; and love, of a protective kind, as it may exist between a man and a youth, where the younger sees in the older a model of all the manly virtues he aspires to imitate, and the older sees in the younger a freshly written manuscript of his own youth, into which he may read all his earlier dreams and come to realise them in the person of the other.” Paine tells we may seek this ideal of “reckless love of comrades” in “the friend”. “My friend,” he writes, “is my God. I know no other God. He is not one and indivisible, but one and a million times divisible. I find him everywhere, because once I found him in one single soul. He gave me my clue. He is the little apprentice who looks a momentary greeting to me across the counter, as I speak to him kindly over some trifling purchase; he is the little ink-stained clerk who moves nearer to me on the seat of the omnibus, he does not know why; he is the young undergraduate whose eyes meet mine with a serene shyness as we pass in the street; he is the young engine driver who stops work for a moment with his hand full of cotton waste, and wonders where we have met before... It is for me to choose him as of old the knight errants chose their pages. It does not matter where I find him. He may be an errand-boy, a newspaper-runner.. Whoever injures him injures me; whoever makes an enemy of him makes an enemy of me... All that I have belongs to him for a purpose that when the moment arrives he may by example become a revolutionary, an upholder of the New Aristocracy.” Paine develops this New Aristocracy more programmatically in his second, 1920 book, The New Aristocracy of Comradeship (quite possibly the source from which E.E. Bradford derived his title The True Aristocracy three years later) as “a new aristocracy whose watchword is comradeship and whose archetype is the friend.” Although in Shop Slavery Paine went out of his way to emphasise that this “friendship’ had nothing to do with what he terms the “secret horrors” bred by throwing boys together in the dormitories of the “live-in system”, in New Aristocracy he speaks of the positive contribution of Eros and sexuality: “Friendship is not something dissimilar from love. Friendship is one of the manifestations of love...The regular channels through which love manifests itself are comradeship (spiritual love) and sexual passion (physical love). If these two channels are kept open, and free from all impedimenta and all impurities, spiritual love reacts upon physical love, and vice versa, to the advantage of both.” The Harvard and Oxford educated art connoisseur and dealer Edward Perry Warren, in his Defence of Uranian Love, though he took many more words to say it, could not have said it better than Paine did, when he begins his three volume defence of Uranianism by telling us “If a theory of love is to satisfy man, its feet must be planted on the earth and its head raised toward the sky; in other words, it must include both his bodily and his spiritual nature. If it is only the latter, it is insubstantial; if it is true only to his fleshly instincts, it is condemned by his self-respect.”
In his list of possible “friends” you will note that Paine moves from the “little apprentice” through our engine-driver, emblem not only of all that is masculine, but of technological progress as well. The truth this points to is something that the hegemonic “gay” movement today prefers not to recognise: that homosexuality, throughout the ages and in all corners of the world, has always been composed of three basic strands: age-structured relationships (Greek pederasty, boy-love), gender-structured relationships (the berdache, the maricon, the molly, and their masculine-identified men), and the ‘egalitarian’ relationship (Homeric homosexuality, and the modern gay model). Not all three are equally represented in any particular time or place, or in any one class within society; one (or perhaps two) will be dominant, while the third may be almost invisible or socially oppressed, and even ridiculed and despised by those practising other forms of homosexuality. Our contemporary situation, with the near-total hegemony of egalitarian adult relationships, the marginalisation of gender-structured relationships, and the vicious persecution of age-structured relations, dates back little more than a century, to Hirschfeld and this “third sex” theories, and his political strategy of trading off an age of consent that would suppress age-structured relationships in order to gain the acceptance of gender-structured and egalitarian relationships. Within living memory, for those of us who are older, there was a more tolerant homosexuality: there might have been disparaging remarks about ‘chicken queens’ – but there were also disparaging remarks about drag queens, dinge queens, rice queens (or those with ‘yellow fever’), seafood queens, leather queens, golden shower queens and others. Still, before the relative legal tolerance gained by discreet, respectable, conforming ‘gays’ in the second half of the 1970s and 1980s, everyone ultimately knew that we were all in the same boat, so to speak, vis-à-vis society.
Like Hirschfeld’s opponents in Germany, the male-bonding and pedagogical Eros theorists, the Uranians were squarely part of a tradition which recognised intensively masculine relationships, be they age-structured or egalitarian, and abhorred the ‘weak’ and effeminate. The title of their American anthology, Men and Boys – which also includes the lumber-jack poetry of Douglas Malloch, and work by Willard Wattles, who denounces effete and effeminate, forensically defined “homosexuality” (as opposed to male “friendship” or “comradeship”) as
The Old World’s foul corruption [...] poured on our naked shores, And the soul of the nation festers, ulcerated with sores, The sons of the Pilgrim Fathers, on the hills their fathers trod, Have reared Gomorrah and Sodom in the face of their father’s God.. and cries out in appeal to that God, Shape up, O God, the manhood that leaps like a living flame!
- the title of that anthology should not be read as a reference only to adult men and boys, but as about men and men, and men and boys, and for that matter, boys and boys. Still, what remains the key to understanding its contributors, however, is that for most of the poets and theorists in the movement these relationships were in one way or another asymmetrical – socially, if not by age. Even Malloch, the American ‘lumberjack poet’ writes not only of “the love of a man for a man”, but also of the constant “elder chum” – with this relationship intended to move the unequal partner toward full manhood.
We will come back to that in a moment, but before we get there we must say a word about the artistic strategy of the Uranians. They not only had an explicit politics, a programme and a shared ideology, but they also shared an artistic strategy – the strategy of valorising their sexual dissidence in art. It has only been since the 1970s – again, since the initial work was done on the Uranians – that thanks especially to feminist, gay and queer art, and particularly to analysis of the intentions behind the work of such key figures as Robert Mapplethorpe, that we have been able to consciously identify what previous homosexual or pederastic artists such as the American photographer F. Holland Day, or the famous German photographer Wilhelm von Gloeden, or, of more interest to us, writers like John Addington Symonds and the rest of our more conscious Uranians, were up to. The theory, whether it is in the hands of Mapplethorpe or Symonds, is that if one can produce a satisfying work of art on a subject, one recommends or (to use art jargon) ‘valorises’ that subject: if it is worthy and capable of becoming the subject of art, it must be worthy, good and honourable in itself. Mapplethorpe did this for sex in general (what are his late flower photographs except an extended series of portraits of sex organs?), and more specifically for S&M and for masculine women (the Lisa Lyon female bodybuilder series), and black men – and on at least one occasion experimented with doing the same for man-boy relations, although few people, even Mapplethorpe experts, know of (or, if they do know of it, acknowledge) the last of these. Once we see that, we can work back through homosexual photography – George Platt Lynes, Minor White and F. Holland Day – to find others doing the same. And once we can begin to see F. Holland Day, with his ‘Grecian’ photographs, as the Mapplethorpe of his era, it is not such a large stretch to see Symonds as akin to Mapplethorpe, outrageous as a comparison between the woeful Victorian and the East Village libertine might at first appear. Indeed, the idea of an artistic strategy for valorising homosexuality would have particularly appealed to a personality such as Symonds, who, after all, in addition to his poetry and his scholarship – often harnessed to his sexual interests – also wrote tracts such as his Problems in Greek and Modern Ethics, “addressed especially to medical psychiatrists and jurists”, and participated in the medical discourse in his collaboration with Havelock Ellis. Certainly not every Uranian who took up his pen was equally aware of what he was up to, but the more prolific, such as E.E. Bradford (if someone writes 12 books of poetry on a controversial subject over 20 years, one must assume a propagandising purpose!), or the more vocal and combative personalities such as the Americans Willard Wattles or George Sylvester Viereck, were clearly writing with a purpose.
To put it somewhat crudely, there are extra points in this game of valorisation if you can draw in important art from the past too – which is the first point where the Greeks (and classic art in general) come in. Far from a means of evasion, of hiding in plain sight, of talking about homosexual themes in a socially acceptable manner in a society familiar with the classics, as d’Arch Smith interpreted it, the Uranians’ allusions to the Greeks were a positive tool in their strategy of valorisation and striving for social acceptance of their sexuality. But there was more than just a formal aspect to this: the Greeks also provided the Uranians with content for what they were arguing.
I’ve already noted that the peculiarity of the Uranians is that they advocated an asymmetrical form of homosexuality, whether that involved an asymmetry of age, or of social status, or both. Looking to the Greeks, the Uranians found the same sort of asymmetrical relationships there – at least in terms of age. The endless lists of gods and mortals (particularly young mortals), of “heroes and their pals” (as Halperin memorably termed them), and of pairs of friends to whom the Uranians devoted poems bears witness to that. But they found other things. In the concept of democracy they found a way of speaking about their sense that common, labouring men and boys could have a dignity and value equal to their own, so that Toward Democracy was both a political and sexual rallying cry. They also found the idea of aristocracy – an in-born, natural aristocracy, an aristocracy of character which could be found, they argued, in a man or boy of any station, something summed up in the Greek ideal of areté. To quote William Paine again: “every boy is born an aristocrat, by which I mean he is born to the pursuit of an ideal of character which modern conditions make it almost impossible for him to realise... But all are born aristocrats. We have to keep them so.” And lastly, they found something they seized upon as the tool for uniting these two paradoxical values of democracy and aristocracy: male friendship, comradeship, masculine love. Despite their inequality in age or class status, in the presence of the masculine, pedagogical Eros, the quality of virtue or excellence which the two socially unequal partners shared would provide the basis for a democratising solution that would, in the course of the relationship, raise the younger or socially subordinate partner to equality.
I discuss this whole matter of the Uranians’ use of the Greeks, both as formal allusions and as the basis for their theories of male comradeship, in my article “The Greek Mirror”, in the special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality (49:3/4, 2005), which has also been issued as a book, Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical Tradition in the West. It is getting late, and as the argument, with all the sourcing, is available there, I think it best to just refer you to it.
Thus, to summarise: the Uranians were a transatlantic movement of poets devoted to using their art to valorise their sexuality through poetry. They had their organisations – loose and, in the case of the Americans, short-lived though they were – and in addition to their poetry they published theory, a magazine and an anthology. They had a clear, shared conception of their ideal: an asymmetric homosexuality, across age or class lines, or both, in which the erotic element, the attraction between the unequal partners which they called ‘friendship’ or ‘comradeship’, with the one partner looking up to the other as a role model or mentor, the other seeing in the former both what he could become, and what he himself had once been, would serve as the bond that would lift the younger or socially disadvantaged partner to a full realisation of his potential as a man, and would guarantee that the relation not be exploitative – from either side. The role of erotic attraction was explicit here; the role of sexuality was more ambiguous, although it is clear both from the theory written by Warren and Paine, from various poems, and from some biographical elements preserved, that some of the Uranians did not eschew it. Politically, theirs was an essentially progressive and humane vision, of a society in which every person boy or young man could fulfil his gifts and develop his character. But this was to be a double revolution: the social revolution was to be accomplished by means of a sexual liberation which would permit their love to flourish. The Uranians were in fact poets who took on the role of unacknowledged legislators, and as previously unrecognised voices in homosexual liberation, were a most unlikely batch of revolutionaries.
It was precisely their social vision that sets the Uranians apart from their German compatriots, with their even better developed theories of male bonding. The Germans certainly argued for the role of Eros – they were characterised by their explicit development of theories of Pedagogical Eros – but this was largely to take place among an elite – the title “Der Eigene” tells it all! – who were spiritually and intellectually advanced. A Uranian representative of the elite, such as Ned Warren, is conceivable among their ranks, but not a William Paine, and I know of nothing in German homosexual poetry equivalent to the catalogues of boys and young men in menial professions that one finds in the Uranians – and I don’t think that is just because they lack the listing impulse English poetry got from Whitman. With the exception of Mackay, there is an element of the Übermensch among the German theorists, that leaves one slightly uncomfortable in light of their later history.
Of course, by the end of 1933 it appeared that all the early movements for homosexual liberation had lost – the Uranians had gone silent in both America and England, Wyneken had been convicted of indecency for his pedagogical Eros as far back as 1921, both Hirschfeld and his opponents were silenced, Mackay died just days before the Nazis assumed power. It is partly by chance, and more largely as a result of changing social, educational and work patterns after the Second World War, where men and boys were separated and education became a responsibility of the state, with boys being trained in state schools rather than in the workplace, that the new round of homosexual liberation could pick up on part of Hirschfeld’s heritage. Today anyone – particularly a social superior – who would go out seeking “friendship” or “comradeship” with a boy would be arrested for “grooming” as a “pedophile predator”, and for that matter any “gay” man who enters into relationships across racial or class lines is deeply suspect of seeking to exploit “vulnerable” young men. The whole paradigm for sexuality is one of equality, mutuality and reciprocity. This has justifiably been the result of a century of sexual politics, especially the recognition that “love” is no answer to the systemic inequalities in the relations between men and women. And surely there were – and are – also men who exploited – and exploit – subordinate males under the excuse of loving or mentoring them. The Uranians were well aware of that possibility, which is precisely why they sought to hedge in their relationships so tightly with moral imperatives. Yet the Uranians, in their work, and bits of their biographies that we have – the letters of two of the Americans, F. Holland Day and George Edward Woodberry, are particularly revealing in this light – continue to tell us that asymmetric relationships do not have to be ‘equal’ to be mutual, or even, depending on how one defines the term, reciprocal, or to be experienced as successful by the partners.
I leave you with an expression of this, in one of the poems from Edward Perry Warren’s Wild Rose:
When I am old, come to me, child, and say: “I have tried another way, and sweet hath been the bed whereon I have lain. I have left thee to love again; but take my hand today and hear – for I will say it – what to hear is no less just than dear, words that are not less coveted than earned: pleasure indeed I have learned, have given my heart sincere, have better loved, and found a love that now shame were to disavow, but not more true and perfect in the end than thine, O perfect friend, nor holier than thou.”