On Men and Boys
Men and Boys: An Anthology
In New York in 1924 a slim octavo volume of poetry bearing the title Men and Boys: An Anthology was privately and anonymously issued. Though preceded in England by Edward Carpenter’s Ioläus: An Anthology of Friendship (Carpenter, 1902), which contained both prose and verse, and which was in fact a source from which some of the material in Men and Boys was culled, and by the German model for Carpenter’s work, Elisar von Kupffer’s collection Lieblingsminne und Freundesliebe in der Weltliteratur (Kupffer, 1900), this unpretentious volume has the distinction of being the first anthology of homosexual verse to be published in America. As the title indicates, it focuses primarily on relationships between adult males and boys or youths, but as was the case with its two predecessors, and as was customary until the quite recent development of “gay consciousness”, no distinction is made in Men and Boys between that love of boys, or paederasty in its classical sense, and love between adult males, which the terms gay and homosexual today generally connote.
Nor is the primacy of Men and Boys purely historical, for writing of the book nearly half century after it was issued, Timothy d’Arch Smith, chronicler of the English Uranian poets of the late 19th and early 20th century, asserts that it “still remains the best collection of Uranian poetry” (d’Arch Smith, 1970: 187). Strange though it may be that an American anthology, geographically distant from the English sources, should contain the best collection of Uranian verse, that surely is the book’s greatest strength. Indeed, once the identity of the central figure behind the book was uncovered, he turned out to have been an unusually well-traveled American who maintained a wide range of contacts among the English Uranians, enabling him to present not only a comprehensive collection of their poems, but also original biographical information on some of the authors.
In the coverage of earlier centuries, ranging from the Bible and poets of the Greek Anthology through the Romans, Persians, the sonnets of Michelangelo and the Elizabethans to the work of the German and English romantics, the editor’s scholarship is more often derivative than original, but still reflects a surprisingly thorough knowledge of the work of Edward Carpenter, John Addington Symonds, Sir Richard Burton, E.I. Prime-Stevenson (“Xavier Mayne”) and others. Curiously, the anthology is weaker at precisely the point where one might have expected it to be most valuable, recording the voices of the Uranians’ American contemporaries. While the anthology ends with a selection of forty contemporary voices, under the heading “Various Present-Day Poets”, and there are indeed some of the Uranians’ American counterparts to be discovered there, perhaps an equal number of poets meriting inclusion have been ignored. In their place are other materials, included through an editorial process that can only charitably be termed dishonest. (A full discussion of the “Present-Day Poets” section follows in Part II of this introduction.)
On the balance, however, Men and Boys remains historically important, and of no small scholarly interest. Yet until its reprint in a facsimile edition in 1978, for which I prepared a scholarly introduction, copies were of the last rarity, there being at that time only five of the original edition of 150 located, the principle copies being one in the British Library (formerly in the collection of the Rev. A.R.T. Winckley ), another at the Kinsey Institute, and one, perhaps the most important, which turned up as the reprint edition was being prepared for press, from the library of Dr. Havelock Ellis. Now in the possession of this author, it is an autographed presentation copy from the anthologist to Ellis, and confirms that the attribution made here is correct. Since the time of the reprint, roughly another ten copies of the 1924 edition, in two different states, have surfaced, making a total of some fifteen copies now known to be in university libraries, primarily in the United States, or in the hands of collectors. While the 1978 facsimile placed another 250 copies in circulation, it remains very difficult to locate copies of the anthology for research. Thus its presentation on the web, with this updated introduction.
The compiler of the anthology is not identified anywhere in the volume, but it is not hard to surmise that it is the individual who presents his own poetry under the pseudonym “Edmund Edwinson” on pages 65-67, and whose initials indicate various translations from Greek and Latin from his hand on pages 8, 9, 14 and 16. Writing about himself in the third person, he tells us:
“Edmund Edwinson” is the pseudonym of an American technical man. He was born in the South and educated there. He has traveled widely in his work and visited China, Korea, Annam, Australia, New Zealand, India etc. He is now engaged in University work. (Slocum, 1924/1978: 65)
At the time d’Arch Smith produced his study of the Uranians in 1970, the identity of the person behind the pseudonym was unknown. There d’Arch Smith wrote, “No trace of the editor’s identity can now be found except that he was an American ‘technical man’... He might conceivably be identified with the American translator of Platen, Reginald Bancroft Cooke...” (d’Arch Smith, 1970: 187).
By birth, R.B. Cooke was not an American. He was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England, on July 13, 1887, son of a cotton broker. His family emigrated to the Unites States in 1898, evidently settling in California. Cooke received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1909, taking his Masters degree from the same school in 1910 (letter from the Alumni Records Clerk, University of California, Berkeley, to the author, May, 1975). In 1915 he received his Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, writing his dissertation on the German philosopher F.E. Beneke (Comprehensive Dissertation Index, Vol. 33, page 920). While at the University of Wisconsin, Cooke began the task of rendering the sonnets of the German poet Karl August George Max Graf von Platen Hallermunde (1796-1835) into English. The first of Cooke’s Platen translations, the Sonnets from Venice (Madison: Tracy and Kilgore, 1914) saw print before he was graduated.
In the autumn of 1920 Dr. Cooke appears at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, as an Assistant in Philosophy, a position he was to hold through 1922. While at Cornell his translations of Platen continued to appear: To Cardenio (Ithaca: U.S. Johnson, 1919), To Karl Theodor (Ithaca: Tioga Press, 1920), Miscellaneous Sonnets Translated from the German of Platen (Ithaca: Andrus and Church, 1921) and Sonnets to Literary Personages (Ithaca: Andrus and Church, 1922) were published in limited, numbered editions. The following year, all of Dr. Cooke’s Platen translations were collected in one volume, appearing under the title The Sonnets of K.A.G.M. Graf von Platen-Hallermünde (Boston: Badger, 1923), the first and only English rendering of Platen ever issued.
Several of the fascicles of Platen’s poems had introductions signed from Orr’s Island, Maine, where Dr. Cooke seems to have maintained a seasonal residence. Cooke evidently became a permanent resident of that area, publishing his next volume there, a collection of his own poems concerning World War I entitled Some Sonnets of a Passing Epoch (Portland, Maine: Southworth, 1925). With this, we lose track of him until his admission to the Farrington Hospital, maintained by the city of Portland for the indigent, in 1933, for the first of five stays which ranged form two weeks to five months. In the spring of 1943 he was admitted for a sixth time, and remained in the hospital, or its attached home for the indigent aged, until his death of cancer on November 1, 1946. During these years he is known to have published one further book, a collection of his chess problems, Forty Two Movers, 1919-1939 (Portland: Bradford Press, 1939).
Though a poet, translator and one familiar with publishing, neither Dr. Cooke’s biographical data nor his field of study fit with the information “Edwinson” gives about himself, and there is only the slimmest evidence – the existence of autographed copies of two of his Platen fascicles at Columbia University Library – to link him with New York City in any way. On the other hand, the absence of any German poets from Men and Boys except for Goethe, and of Platen in particular (although he is mentioned in the introduction to Goethe’s poetry), appeared to militate against Cooke being a candidate for the editorship. But at the same time it was becoming obvious that Dr. Cooke could not be the editor of Men and Boys, new evidence was emerging – my discovery that checkout cards from the Columbia University Library copies of a number of volumes by poets represented in the anthology had all been signed by the same person during the requisite period (and sometimes not signed out again until I looked at them in 1974-5!), the discovery of the S.E. Cottam manuscript in England, as related by Timothy d’Arch Smith in his “Appreciation” to the reprint edition of Men and Boys (Slocum, 1924/1978: xii-xiv), and finally the discovery of the copy of the anthology autographed from the editor to Dr. Havelock Ellis – that all revealed the pseudonymous “Edwinson” to be one Edward Mark Slocum.
The facts of E.M. Slocum’s life, so far as they are known, correlate perfectly with what we are told by “Edwinson”. He was born on August 7, 1882, in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son Dr. James White Slocum, of one of Knoxville’s pioneer druggists, who had his shop on Gay Street (Patton, 1945). The next record we have of him is as a student at the Baker-Himel, a no longer extant private secondary school in Knoxville, from which he entered the University of Tennessee in 1898. He graduated from the University in 1901 as the valedictorian of his class. While a newspaper account of the event gives his home address at the time as Chicago, his Southern roots are revealed by the topic of his valedictory speech, “The Jacksonian Revolution.” His scientific interests were also evident; the thesis required for his A.B. degree was entitled “The Quantitative Estimation of Sulphur in Pig Iron” (TLS from the Registrar, University of Tennessee, to the author, September 11, 1975). The only known photograph of Slocum comes from this period of his life, appearing in the yearbook for 1901 (University of Tennessee Volunteer, 1901, p. 63)
Patton’s obituary for Slocum refers to a Masters degree from the University of Chicago, the date and subject of which I have not yet been able to trace; the next step in his academic career which is fully documented is his doctorate in chemistry from Columbia University, received in May of 1924, the same year the anthology was published. Slocum’s dissertation topic at Columbia was “The Reactions of Polymethylene Derivatives in the Preparation of Higher Olefine Primary Alcohols” ; his studies there were under the direction of Prof. Marston Taylor Bogert, in collaboration with whom Slocum published two studies. Slocum also held nearly a dozen United States patents on rubber composition and production, paper bleaching and water purification. We know little of Slocum’s activities between 1901 and his arrival at Columbia in 1919, aside from the fact that the application for his first patent, granted March 19, 1918, shows his address as Medan, Sumatra, Dutch East Indies, and his profession as agent consignee there for the General Rubber Company. There is no evidence of his having been involved in military service in World War I.
Slocum’s activities after leaving Columbia are as shadowy as the years before his arrival there. There is no evidence whatsoever about where his second book, Lads o’the Sun: Memories, was produced. Nor is it entirely certain when this collection of thirty-five of Slocum’s own poems, each en face with a photograph of a nude youth, was made; d’Arch Smith, again following the unpublished Dawes history of erotica in the British Library, dates it to 1928 and places it in New York (d’Arch Smith, 1970: 245). A curiously produced volume, its binding and paper are identical with those used in Men and Boys. Examination reveals it to have been produced as a blank book, only the title page being printed and bound in. Both the photographic plates and the poems, printed on bond paper, have been tipped in, and the limitation notice at the end is hand-stamped. That both the photographs and poems are by Slocum seems fairly clear; in subject, tone and (regrettably) quality they resemble Slocum’s contributions in Men and Boys. In several cases they are addressed by name, presumably to the subject of the facing picture. The photographs, though technically well done, are closely imitative of the work of Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden, their subjects frequently posed with “classical” props such as reed flutes, lyres and laurel wreaths. As the youths are obviously contemporary Americans, often posed in Eastern American woodlands, and as – unlike the soft-focus pictorialist work of F. Holland Day and Clarence White, where the same sorts of props may be used but the blurring creates a sort of timeless aura – the sharp focus makes that all too clear, this “classical” effect is often slightly unsettling and faintly ludicrous, even more so than in the Baron’s own work. Using the blank books, which perhaps date from 1924 with Men and Boys, and printing the plates from his own negatives, Slocum probably assembled copies only as needed, perhaps over a period of years and at several locations. This method of production would make it very unlikely that anywhere near the 100 copies indicated in the limitation notice were ever produced, and it is not surprising that Lads o’the Sun should be even rarer than its predecessor. At present, only three copies are known: one, number 15, is in the British Library, another, number 26, at the Kinsey Institute, and one, number 12, in the hands of an American collector. The title page lists it as being part of the Ladslore Series; only one other title in this series is known to exist – quite literally as a title, Lads’ Law, on a cover only, the contents having been torn out.
During the late 1920s Slocum carried on a wide correspondence, and evidently visited Europe at least in 1926 and 1929. Bits of the correspondence are widely dispersed. A letter from Slocum to the Rev. A.R.T. Winckley, signed as “Ed”, is preserved with the British Library copy of Men and Boys, and Slocum clearly corresponded with another Uranian clergyman, the Rev. S.E. Cottam, who quotes some of his letters in an unpublished manuscript (d’Arch Smith, in Slocum, 1924/1978: xiv) The same collector who holds the third copy of Lads o’the Sun also has two letters from Baron von Gloeden to Slocum, dated 1926, regarding Slocum’s visit to him in Taormina and the purchase of some photographs. Correspondence between the Uranian author Leonard Green and Slocum was offered by the American bookseller Priapean Tomes in their Winter, 2001, catalogue, regarding photographs to be sent to Green by Slocum, and arrangements for a dinner in London. Unfortunately, the catalogue entry does not give any date for the letters, and their present whereabouts are unknown. More recently, I have acquired 1929 correspondence from George Cecil Ives to Slocum, noting that they had been writing for some years but never met in person, and now making arrangements to do so at Ives’s club during Slocum’s visit in London. Finally, there is an intriguing claim by Timothy d’Arch Smith, in an article on the poet Edmund John (d’Arch Smith, 1998: 28-9), that Slocum may have been in touch with Norman Douglas, whom he proposes is the source for the biographical information in Slocum’s introduction to John’s poems in Men and Boys, although why he should propose this, rather than what seems to me a more obvious connection, a direct correspondence between Slocum and John, is not clear.
Known facts about the remainder of Slocum’s life are quickly recounted. In 1932, the Columbia University Alumni Register locates Slocum in Dry Branch, Georgia, near Macon. His alumni information card, preserved in the Columbiana Collection, lists Macon, Georgia, as his address in 1941; pencilled beside it is the notation “Consulting Analyst, General Reduction Co.” During this period Slocum published two further scientific articles on water treatment, but there is no evidence that he ever ventured into print on the topic of boyhood again.
After this, the circumstances surrounding Slocum’s death become quite confused. In 1975-77, when first researching Slocum’s life, I had relied on the information gleaned from his alumni card, in the Columbiana Collection. It shows another change of address, in 1946, to the Hotel Milner, in Philadelphia. The final entry on the card indicates that Slocum died on August 6, 1946, but gives no place of death. Examination of the death records at the Philadelphia public records office produced no leads. On the other hand, we now have the Charles V. Patton obituary from the Knoxville Journal, with its pencilled notation “2-4-45” – over a year before the dates shown by Columbia University. Had there not been a change of address the same year, it might be assumed that the date of death given on the card was the date that Columbia was notified, which might have been months after his death, but with two entries in that year this seems unlikely. More possibly, the pencilled date on the clipping is incorrect; the question of the dates will have to be settled by an examination of the files of the Knoxville Journal for the years involved. But there is also the question of the place of death. Patton is quite definite that this was Macon, Georgia, where Slocum had a surviving brother. There is however something else besides the note on Columbia’s card which clearly connects Slocum with Philadelphia at the end of his life, and that is the subsequent presence of a number of items from Slocum’s library in the library of the Rev. Herbert Boyce Satcher (1890-1966), vicar of St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, an elite suburb of Philadelphia, from 1924 until his retirement in 1958. In addition to being a recognized authority on church music and liturgy, and having an extensive library on that topic, Satcher’s book collection, which must have run into thousands of volumes, was particularly strong on 20th century English poetry, and sexology, particularly homosexuality. At any time one can find fifty or so items with the characteristic Satcher book label being listed by antiquarian book dealers on the net, which collectively give one an impression of the depth and breadth of his collecting interests. He was apparently also well-connected in the homosexual community; for instance, recently a copy of one of the books by Richard Halliburton, the celebrated gay globetrotter, was sold on internet, inscribed by Halliburton to Satcher with thanks for having him as his houseguest while he was lecturing in Philadelphia. All of the important Slocum items which have turned up recently – the von Gloeden letters, the third copy of Lads o’the Sun and a copy of Men and Boys which accompanied it, and Slocum’s copy of Ives’s Graeco-Roman View of Youth with the Ives correspondence tucked in it – are known to have been in the Satcher collection; it is impossible to say how many of the other Uranian items found with the Satcher book label may also have come from Slocum. Perhaps the most logical explanation would have Slocum coming to Philadelphia for a protracted stay for medical treatment, making the acquaintance of, or renewing an older acquaintance with Satcher (Patton does say that Slocum was Episcopalian), gifting him with his book collection when it became clear he was dying, and returning to Macon just before his demise.
There is no question that Slocum was a brilliant man, of wide interests – and competence – ranging from the physical sciences to literary history and criticism. The information card for him, still on file with the Chemistry Department at Columbia in the 1970s, indicates that he qualified in four languages – Greek, Latin, German and French – on his matriculation exams. While studying at Columbia he held a DuPont Fellowship. Recently two unpublished typescripts by Slocum, which had also formed part of the Satcher collection and were acquired by the Folger Library about a decade ago, Sex-deviation in Shakespeare's associates. Homoeroticism in the careers and productions of poets associated with William Shakespeare - Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe, Francis Beaumont, Michael Drayton and Thomas Middleton (Folger Call No: MS ADD 1010) and William Shakespeare, servant. A study of William Shakespeare, his fellows, his masters, his business rivals, in the years of his service to Henry and George Carey, Lords of Hunsdon, with a discussion of his literary activity in the plague years, 1592-1594 (Folger Call No: MS ADD 1011), have also begun attracting attention among Shakespeare scholars as startlingly advanced studies for their day. One academic who is working with them, David P. McKay, of the CUNY Graduate Center and Brooklyn College, has written (e-mail from McKay to the author, June 22, 2006), “the first, and longer, typescript is a mostly straightforward listing of moments in early modern drama where one can infer homoeroticism between male characters, with occasional forays into biography. A number of things are particularly striking about this work: the use of the word "homoeroticism" in the title; the fact that, to my knowledge, this represents the first full scale study of homoeroticism in early modern theater; and, finally, the passages that [Slocum] identifies are generally now accepted as showing exactly what he argues. The first work, which establishes a clear pattern of homoeroticism in early modern drama, seems to be a pretext for the second work, which sets out to establish the identity of the dedicatee/addressee of the Sonnets as William Hughes (or Hewes), son of Bishop William (?) ap Hughes of St. Asaph,” as Slocum also argues in his introduction to Shakespeare in Men and Boys. The fact that Slocum states his theory in his 1924 anthology would suggest that these two typescripts were probably prepared at or before that date. After eighty years of obscurity, another prescient contribution by Slocum in both literature and gay studies would appear to be receiving its just recognition.
About his character there is somewhat more question. Several persons who had known Slocum at Columbia, who were still alive in the 1970s and offered their recollections of him, stated that in the years they knew him he was greatly overweight and generally disheveled in appearance, one colleague at Columbia adding “it was a gag line in the department that his shirt was always somewhat but never very dirty, and we wondered how he managed this.” The same professor continued, however, that Slocum, who had been his laboratory aide, was “a very good assistant who really devoted himself to the students” (TLS from Dr. Louis Hammett to the author, January 7, 1976). But in an interview with me not long before his death, Samuel Loveman (1895?-1976), who had met Slocum around Greenwich Village, near which Slocum roomed on West 14th Street, reported that his behavior could be most inconsiderate and objectionable, and commented it was no surprise that most of Slocum’s poems should deal with the alienation of his beloved’s affections.
It will probably never be possible to write a more complete biography of Edward Mark Slocum than this. The salient facts of his life have been hard enough to discover, and all those who knew him personally – few enough in the 1970s – are certainly now dead. A number of vital records which could have added to our knowledge of him have been destroyed or cannot be traced. Although in recent years a handful of letters to him have unexpectedly re-emerged, having passed through the Satcher collection and at least one further owner after it was dispersed, and it is possible that concerted efforts to go through the papers of possible correspondents – where those have been preserved – might turn up some letters from him, it is probably not likely that there will ever be a large amount of his correspondence recovered – and if it does exist, it will probably remain hidden in some private collection. All these difficulties would be experienced in research on any other minor author of the period. But the subject matter of Men and Boys, and the secrecy with which Slocum worked because of the climate of public opinion, have made the skein vastly harder to unravel.
Any evaluation of E.M. Slocum’s contribution must consider his courage in working under the shadow of exactly that misunderstanding and hostility which characterized public reactions to homosexuality in his day, and still characterizes reactions to age-structured homosexual relations today. In the face of this hostility he produced – albeit pseudonymously and in a severely limited edition – a landmark publication, the first American anthology of homosexual verse, giving a voice to the unspoken feelings inherent in many persons. Through it we have a window into the self-understanding of Slocum and his associates, and because of his work we today are able to reconstruct a long-unrecognized tradition of homosexual poetry. As a pioneer figure in homosexual liberation in America, Dr. Edward Mark Slocum deserves our attention. In Part III we will have opportunity to consider his place within the Uranians on an international stage.
Many of the less familiar poets whose work appears in Men and Boys will require identification today. Digby Mackworth Dolben (1848-1868), Edward Cracroft Lefroy (1855-1891), Edward Emmanuel Bradford (1860-1944), John Gambril Nicholson (1866-1931), John Moray Stuart-Young (1881-1939), Edmund John (1883-1917) and “Philebus”, actually Dr. John Leslie Barford (1886-193?) were all connected with the loosely-knit English Uranian group which flourished from the last decade of the 19th century through the first quarter of the twentieth. Their careers are amply discussed in Timothy d’Arch Smith’s fine study of that movement, Love in Earnest (d’Arch Smith, 1970), to which readers are referred. Two further poets discussed there by d’Arch Smith appear in the final section of Men and Boys, under the heading “Various Present-Day Poets”. “A Schoolmaster”, whose lines entitled “A Boy’s Absence”, found on page 68, are excerpts from his poem of the same title (Smith, 1919), is the pseudonym of Arnold W. Smith, headmaster of the Battersea Polytechnic Secondary School (d’Arch Smith, 1970: 150). Fabian Strachan Woodley (1888-1957), another British teacher, one of whose poems appears on page 73, is likewise included in d’Arch Smith’s study (d’Arch Smith, 1970: 144). The lines here are found in his only book, where they form the second part of a poem, the full title of which is “To a friend who told me I was happy” (Woodley, 1921: 38).
We are today able to identify twenty-five of the forty writers whose work appears in the “Various Present-Day Poets” section. Many of their selections, like the materials in the preceding part of the anthology, were quarried from previously published sources. In twenty-five cases, the source of the selection in Men and Boys has been located. These twenty-five poems appeared in print between 1904 and 1924, with the majority appearing between 1916 and 1923. Sometimes the poems are reprinted without alteration, but more often the lines presented here are excerpts from longer works. In some of these cases, as we shall see, the cuts change the character of the poem. Occasionally even more drastic changes are found, with new words, lines or even verses appearing. It must be emphasized that the texts in Men and Boys are never to be relied upon; at best the anthologist has been sloppy in transcribing the poems, and at worst he has been less than honest in altering or rewriting poems which in their original form may have had nothing to do with boy-love. The presence of a poet’s work here, then, does not imply the author was a Uranian, or even in sympathy with their interests. In a number of cases, it means only that the anthologist saw and liked the lines – a sort of ‘queer reading’ avant la lettre. And in absolutely no case whatsoever should one assume anything about an author’s personal sexuality or practices on the basis of these poems. So far as is known – as d’Arch Smith remarks of the Uranians as well – the greatest offense that can be attributed to any of these authors is a propensity for undistinguished verse.
In addition to Smith and Woodley, who are noticed by d’Arch Smith and mentioned above, there are at least four other English or Irish voices included among the “Present-Day Poets”. Robert Malise Bowyer Nichols (1893-1944), whose lines “Plaint of Friendship by Death Broken” appear here on page 79, is briefly mentioned by d’Arch Smith as a World War I poet not directly concerned with the love of boys that characterized the Uranian group per se (d’Arch Smith, 1970: 143). The lines here are but the first stanza of a longer poem bearing the same title, written in memory of one Richard Pinsent, a war casualty who is also one of the two dedicatees for Nichols’s whole book, which appears in Nichols’s second volume of poems, Ardours and Endurances (Nichols, 1919: 51). Nichols was born on the Isle of Wight and educated at Trinity College, Oxford. He served as an officer in the Royal Field Artillery in World War I, then was briefly in the diplomatic service, stationed with the British Mission in New York in the very early 1920s, before returning to England and a career as a writer.
Francis Ledwidge (1887-1917), born in Slane, County Meath, Ireland, whose “A Little Boy in the Morning” appears without alteration on page 76, is similarly best known as a poet of the European war. Born into a poor family, Ledwidge had little formal education, and worked as a laborer and labor organizer. He was encouraged in his writing by Lord Dunsany, and served under him in the 5th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, dying in action in Belgium. Dunsany, who provided the introduction for Ledwidge’s Songs of Peace, from which this poem comes (Ledwidge, 1917:30-31), writes of it,
The second poem in the book was written about a little boy who used to drive cows for some farmer past the poet’s door very early every morning, whistling as he went, and who died just before the war. I think that its beautiful and spontaneous simplicity would cost some of our writers gallons of midnight oil. (Ledwidge, 1917: 6)
Ernest Myers (1844-1921), the English classicist, is represented on page 71 by his poem “The Boy and the Dolphin”, his name being misspelled, intentionally or otherwise, as “Meyers”. The poem itself is reproduced without alteration from the “Hellenica” section of his Gathered Poems (Myers, 1904: 37-8), the earliest of the sources which appear to have been used in assembling the “Present-Day Poets” section. Unquestionably a better scholar than poet, Myers is today remembered – if at all – for his translations of Pindar and Homer rather than for his original verse. The subject matter of the poem of course reflects his scholarly interests, but it should be noted that the Uranians frequently expressed their themes through classical references (see Mader, 2006, for a full exposition of this). Born at Keswick, Cumberland, and educated at Balliol College, Oxford, Ernest Myers was the brother of Frederick W.H. Myers, a leading figure in the founding of the British Society of Psychical Research, who is known to have been peripherally involved with the Uranian circle (d’Arch Smith, 1970: 168-69).
The work of a fourth British writer, Cecil Roberts (1892-1978), appears twice, with his “Lines on the Portrait of a Midshipman Killed in Battle” on page 79 and “After Vacation” on page 82. The former comprises the first two stanzas of a lengthy poem of the same title, found in his Poems, and the latter reprints the first and last stanzas of a poem bearing the same title, dedicated to “Sonnie” (Roberts, 1920: 137-8 and 67-8, respectively). The latter is a fine, pensive poem, weaving together the common Uranian themes of the fleeting days of boyhood and the poet’s lament for his own lost youth, which one might wish had been presented in its entirety. Nor are these the only Uranian themed poems to be found in Robert’s early work; in “Strayed Hylas” he retells the story of Hercules’ beloved (Roberts, 1920: 45-55). Like Nichols, Roberts was present in the United States in the years after World War I, as a lecturer, before establishing himself in England as a professional writer.
One further poem appears in a British source, although its author remains obscure. “To Hugh”, by M. Snow, on page 77 of Men and Boys, is also to be found in the collection Fantasies by “Philebus” (actually, as noted above, Dr. J. Leslie Barford). There it is entitled “A Sonnet to Hugh”, with the subscript “Included by permission”, and the author’s name is given as “Snowball” (Barford, 1923: 16). It can probably be assumed that the author’s actual name is given here, his nickname in Fantasies, and that he was a mutual acquaintance of both Barford, who first published the poem, and our anthologist, who identified him. But who M. Snow was, whether he was British or American, and whence came the other poem from his hand on page 74, are all unknown.
The majority of the “Present-Day Poets” who have been identified are American. Some of the names among them may cause some surprise – for instance, Christopher Morley (1890-1957), who retains a moderate reputation today, largely for his involvement with the Sherlock Holmes cult, rather than his poetry. Morley, some of whose lines appear on page 72, was born in Haverford, Pennsylvania, and received his Bachelors Degree from Haverford College in 1910. He was a Rhodes Scholar at New College, Oxford, from 1910 to 1913. His experiences at Haverford and Oxford form the subject matter for his poem “Parsons’ Pleasure”, the principle poem in his collection of the same title (Morley, 1923: 14-18). The lines excerpted here come from near the middle of the poem, which concerns the making of a poet. “To breed a poet,” Morley asserts, you must let his heart take root – and for himself,
Two breeding places I have known.. Two places from which I inherit The present business of my spirit.
These were Haverford – “O Quaker college!” – and Oxford, with its spires and punts,
But most, of all the mind can treasure, The swimming pool called PARSONS’ PLEASURE...
which, as he has already explained in the introduction to the book, is “the green bathing pool on the Cherwell backwater where even the most confident theologians are happily out of their depth” (Morley, 1923: v). Then follow the lines reprinted in Men and Boys, descriptive of the pool. Morley continues,
The slow curve of those bodies diving And, after all these years surviving In my mind only: that flash, seen Against the willows’ roofing green When they were reckless, young and clean, That, in my secret heart must be Their pitiful immortality. Indeed, one may so furiously cherish Moments, that they cannot perish...
What matter these private remembrances? Nothing,
Save he [the poet] has quickened and been moved By that irrational agonizing fit That teaches him to love all life, and honor it – Dreadful tenderness that goes deep, deep, Like the downward gaze upon a child asleep – This, if he does not know it, He is not a poet: He is not a poet, for he has not loved.
This poem, then, records inclinations felt by Morley in his early adulthood, his response to the heady atmosphere of Oxford that bred so many of the Uranians. Certainly, to have become the central image in the poem, the experience at Parsons’ Pleasure must have had a powerful impact on him. Still, when the poem is read in its entirety, the love felt is clearly for the places and their personal meanings, and not merely for “men’s white bodies, nude... gallant, Greek...” Though the lines are equivocal, no echoes are found elsewhere in Morley’s work, and we probably should credit his presence in Men and Boys not to the poet’s sensibilities, but to the editor’s.
The manner in which the Louis Untermeyer (1885-1977) selection found its way into the anthology is even more illustrative of the editorial methods used in Men and Boys. “The Immortal Boy”, an unconventional tribute to Shakespeare, part of which appears on page 77, was originally published on the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and is an early effort of Untermeyer’s which he never collected into any of his books. In its original form the poem ran forty-nine lines, about twice the length of the fragment here. Among the lines cut from the original is one which characterizes the Bard as
An adventurer, A country poet, and a fool for women, Then as he never ceased to be. (Untermeyer, 1916; italics mine)
These cuts were made without the author’s knowledge, and Untermeyer has written “it is extremely unlikely that I would have consented to the changes that were made”, if asked (TLS, Untermeyer to the author, Feb. 2, 1976). While the poem’s theme remains intact, honoring Shakespeare as a spirit rebellious rather than the gray eminence of literature classes, the cuts turn the poem into propaganda for Slocum’s thesis that Shakespeare was homosexual – something which, rightly or wrongly, the author certainly never intended.
Two further figures who still retain some repute, whose names and poems appear in Men and Boys in an altered state, are Robert Hillyer and Charles Hanson Towne. Robert Hillyer (1895-1961), whose first name here has been misprinted, intentionally or otherwise, as “Rupert”, was late Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard. He is chiefly remembered today for the controversy generated by his attacks on Ezra Pound in the pages of the Saturday Review, when Pound was awarded the Bollingen Prize in 1948. A conservative in all things, Hillyer’s poetry was cast in traditional forms. The lines on page 80, which the editor has here given the title “The Boy in the Nightmare”, were originally the octave of an untitled sonnet in the English mode, number XVIII, which closes the sonnet sequence that forms the fifth section of Hillyer’s Five Books of Youth. The seventh line of the octave has been clumsily altered from the original “Back to our ivy haunted portico” to “Straight to our love-tryst,... that you well know”, a change which reduces the poem to utter nonsense – for if the speaker is departing aboard the ship, how are he and the boy to meet for a love-tryst? The full sonnet, in its pristine state, is a haunting fantasy of separation:
He clung to me, his young face dark with woe, And as the mournful music of the tide Monotonously crooned, he moaned and cried, A silhouette against the afterglow. I said, “The boat has spread her pinions wide; The stars and wind come forth together. Go Back to our ivy haunted portico, And place my seat as always by your side.”
And so I stepped aboard and left him there. Farewell; the rhythmic somnolence of the oars; Star-misty vastness’ swiftly moving air; Then distant lights on undiscovered shores. This I remember, standing by the sea, But where was that dark land, and who were we? (Hillyer, 1920: 126)
The entire sonnet cycle which is concluded by this sonnet is evidently addressed to a boy; in sonnet II the public rut of Hadrian and Antinous is unfavorably compared with the poet’s secret devotion to his beloved. (Hillyer, 1920: 110). Nor are these sonnets the only poems in Five Books of Youth which contain Uranian references. “A Letter” is addressed to a French youth, commending his devotion to the poet, although they have just met and are doomed to part (Hillyer, 1920: 17), and poem XV of the “Days and Season” section begins,
O little shepherd boy, what sobs are those That shake your slender shoulders, what despair Has run her fingers through your rumpled hair, And laid you prone beneath a weight of woe? The trees upon the hill will soon be bare, A yellow blight is on the garden close, But you, you need not mourn the vanished rose, For many springs will find you just as fair. (Hillyer, 1920: 60)
Charles Hanson Towne (1887-1949) was one of the most powerful and respected magazine editors of his day. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, he came with his family to New York at an early age. He left City College there after one year to work as a private secretary for an industrialist, through whom he won an introduction to the publisher of Cosmopolitan Magazine. After an apprenticeship there, he joined the staff of Smart Set, becoming editor and staying until 1915, when he left to assume the editorship of McClure’s Magazine, finally becoming the editor of Harper’s Bazaar from 1926 to 1931. A life-long bachelor, he was a fixture of New York’s literary and social scene. Among the numerous books from his own hand, which included reports on his travels and two autobiographies, he produced several volumes of poetry, and it is from one of these, A World of Windows, that the selection of his found on page 70 of Men and Boys comes. It retains the same title, “Light Love”, as it has in Towne’s book, but the poet’s name has been disguised as “H. Townes”. The poem, as it originally appeared, had four verses, the first of which is also the first in Men and Boys, suffering only the substitution of “lads-love” for “passion” in the fourth line (Towne, 1919: 23). The second of the two verses found here is not part of the poem as it appears in Towne’s book, though the first line and other fragments are recognizable in the second of Towne’s original verses. There are two ways in which this new verse can be explained. It is possible that three lines from the anthologist’s hand were substituted for those of the original, transforming an innocent poem about teenage ‘puppy-love’ into Uranian verse. Or it is possible that Towne was sympathetic with the Uranians, and was known to someone involved in the production of this anthology, passing on an alternative verse of his own for use here, his name being disguised to protect him. This possibility should not be dismissed too quickly; at the very end of this same volume one suddenly encounters a startling, almost crusading poem on a gender transgressive theme, “Young Rupert”. Rupert, the very picture of a ‘pansy’ (“His hair was golden as a girl’s, his cheeks were pink and white, / His hands were delicate and soft, he hated men who fight...”) responds to the call of duty (“But when they needed youngsters, those early days in France, / Young Rupert packed his grip and went to drive an ambulance...”), leaving behind the he-men who had laughed at him to their empty boasts in smoke-filled bars (“But Rupert’s on the firing-line, he’s helping all he can. / Effeminate? Not on your life! He’s every inch a man!”) (Towne, 1919: 87-88). Although his autobiographies are utterly without clues about his own sexuality (almost too carefully cleansed, one might think), Towne could be up-front when he chose to be. Still, the burden of proof must lie with advocates of the latter possibility, for we know that the editor of Men and Boys was not above such rewriting.
Burges Johnson (1877-1963), whose work appears on page 72 of Men and Boys, was another New York writer. Born in Rutland, Vermont, by 1920 he had left the life of a working journalist in New York to become a professor of English at Vassar, and later would become a professor of journalism, first at Syracuse University and then at Union College, Schenectady, New York. Over the years he sent to press a series of poetry books celebrating old-fashioned rural boyhood, tales of stubbed toes and skinned knees, upright schoolmarms, town characters, skinny-dipping in the ol' swimmin' hole, long summer afternoons of fishin', loyal dogs and neighbor girls you never figured would grow up so pretty, many told in dialect. The selection here is a fragment of an untitled introductory poem in his Youngsters (Johnson, 1921), which reveals a rather more sustained Uranian consciousness than the rest of his work, dealing explicitly with the theme of the poet’s own lost boyhood and freedom. While Johnson’s allusions to boyhood – too numerous to catalogue here – would obviously have delighted the Uranian eye, there is nothing in Johnson’s biography, and little else in his work, to indicate that he necessarily shared their interests, or was doing more than mining a very productive vein of American popular culture.
Another non-literary poet, this time from Chicago, whose work lies in the popular/journalistic realm and who shared the dialect tradition with Johnson, was Douglas Malloch (1877-1938). Born in Muskegon, Michigan, Malloch edited a lumber trade journal, later becoming a poetry columnist for the McClure Newspaper Syndicate, and served as president of several Midwestern professional writers’ associations. He published several volumes of poetry about rural life, particularly life in the lumber camps of his native state; it is from one of these, Tote-Road and Trail, that the selection on page 83 of Men and Boys comes. The author’s name has been altered from Douglas to “Donald”, and the title of the poem has been changed to “Manly Love”, but the text is reproduced without alterations from the last stanza of his “The Love of a Man” (Malloch, 1917:12-13). Almost a century after they were written, the lines still seem startlingly frank, but the editing has not misrepresented the tone of the poem, which begins,
The love of a woman is sweet; In life I have fondled a few, Have felt the red blood as it beat The uttermost arteries through. Yet God in his wisdom divine, Yet God in his infinite plan, Made nothing as holy and fine As the love of a man for a man.
Nor is this the only occasion in this volume where Malloch takes up this theme. “A Man’s Road” is the consolation offered by the ever-constant “elder chum” to a young man lately deserted by his lady love, and both “One” and “A Camp in the Woods with a Friend” deal with male friendships (Malloch, 1917: 107-9, 122 and 123-4, respectively). In his combining poems lauding egalitarian male relations and age-structured relations – and the presence of example of the former in Men and Boys – Malloch provides a good example of how homosexuality was configured at the time of the anthology, without the hard and fast distinctions between such relationships which grew up later in the century.
As his name indicates, James Fenimore Cooper, Jr. (1892-1918) was heir to an entirely different literary tradition. A great-grandson of the American novelist, Cooper was born at Albany, graduated from Yale in 1913, and went to Harvard Law. With the entry of the United States into World War I, he became a captain in with the 308th Field Artillery, dying of pneumonia at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in late 1918. From the posthumous collection of his work, Afterglow, comes his poem “To a Friend”, the first, third and fifth verses of which are reprinted on page 82 of Men and Boys. Addressed to a pianist, whose gender is left ambiguous, the poem’s identity as a Uranian work must turn upon the nature of the “secret” the poet “must deny” (Crawford, 1919: 40-1). There is little else in Afterglow that might indicate that Cooper had Uranian sympathies. If this is indeed an Uranian work, addressed to a male, that fact must have been privately communicated.
Willard Austin Wattles (1888-1950) was sometimes referred to as the “Sunflower Poet” for his native Kansas. He is represented on page 79 of Men and Boys by a lament for a student of his, Robert Clayton Westman, who died in battle August 10, 1918. These lines were part of a longer poem to Westman which first appeared in the Boston Evening Transcript, from which it was reprinted in the Anthology of Magazine Verse for 1919. These particular lines, with others, disappear from the poem when it is again reprinted in Poetry later that year, and are still missing in Iron Anvil, the posthumous collection of Wattles’s verse edited by his wife.
Wattles, self-described as a “University lecturer, harvest hand, critic, hobo and poet” (W.S. Braithwaite , ed. Anthology of Magazine Verse, 1918, p. 275), received his baccalaureate from the University of Kansas in 1909, and a Masters degree from the same school in 1911. He taught at Massachusetts Agricultural College (now the University of Massachusetts), Amherst, from 1911 to 1914, the University of Kansas from 1914 to 1920, Connecticut Agricultural College (now the University of Connecticut), Storrs, from 1921 to 1925, Oregon State University, Corvallis, from 1925 to 1927, finally moving to Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, where he remained until his death. In addition to three volumes of his own verse (one posthumous), he edited a collection of Kansas poetry entitled Sunflowers, which also contains many poems from his hand unpublished elsewhere.
Much of his early work is imitative of Whitman, and Wattles’s poems are frequently populated by Whitmanesque “comrades and lovers’:
Lo, I will shape you a song for only the strong to sing... You who are young and clean and sweetened by the sun, Who have followed the binder afield until the blinding day is done... Who have slept ‘neath the open sky and pillowed a dusty head On shiny saddle leather, nor wished for a better bed. For you my music is moulded. (“Challenge to Youth”; Wattles, 1916: 111)
Or, from Wattles’s “Stay West, Young Man”:
Give me the blazing sunshine, give me the open sky, The crude young strength of manhood undrained by harlotry... (Wattles, 1916, 110)
In his religious verse, Wattles develops an image of the Christ as a muscular, ideal comrade. An almost perfect expression of this concept is contained in “But a Great Laugher”, in Wattles’s Lanterns in Gethsemane:
They do me wrong who show me sad of face, Slender and stooped, gentle, and meek, and mild, As if I were forever reconciled To sting of hate and bitter of disgrace. I was youth’s lover, the swiftest of the race, Gay friend to beggars, brother to the wild, No lily-featured, woman-hearted child, But a great laugher, confident of place.
Shepherd and fisher, sailor, carpenter, I strode the hills and fellowed with the sun Knew arms and bosoms and slow steady eyes, Felt each new April through my body stir, – Then, when t’was over, and the loving done Even with a smile I slew my enemies. (Wattles, 1918: 3)
And these were male arms and bosoms, mind you: Communion with this Christ is intimate, and physical:
John, my beloved, come with me apart In this dim garden for a little space... ’Tis not the first time that we too have walked Shoulder to shoulder under the stars; Nor yet the last, John, though to-mrrow’s sun Should dawn upon you, and on your alone... We say good-by, for every road must end.. Claspt hands are severed, hungry lips must part, The long night comes at close of every day... Was it not worth it, just to dare to be One’s simple self, to think, to love, to do, And not to be ashamed?... But we have dared. David and Jonathan Drank no divinelier in courts of Saul... And though to-night I drain the cup of death Down to the stinging dregs of Judas’ kiss, The wine of love lies sweeter on my lips – I see the lanterns gleaming. Kiss me, John. (Wattles, 1918: 104-5)
These qualities in Wattles’s word did not escape the notice of his contemporaries. Among his papers is a letter from the poet Witter Bynner, offering counsel about how to respond to questions being pressed by their mutual friend Rose O’Neill (1874-1944), a New York writer and illustrator (and designer of the Kewpie doll!), whose novels have a pronounced Lesbian cast. Bynner advises,
In that conversation from Rose which you didn’t grasp, she must have been referring to [Oscar] Wilde. I don’t wonder that a certain element of your verse, the tenderness toward men, prompted her inquiry. Others will make it, though not, like her, aloud. Don’t worry about it. Be true and fine in your heart, and the daws can never hurt it. Let ‘em peck.
Rose O’Neill’s questions may have been sympathetic, but as Bynner’s advice indicates, not everyone’s would be. Clearly one of the concerns of the circle behind Men and Boys was responding to the imputations of forensic psychiatrists and social workers who saw their sentiments as an expression of the social plague of homosexuality. In a sense, as we will see in Part III, the whole anthology is an answer, tying these sentiments with all that has been high and good in Western culture, and with all that is constructive in male bonding and pedagogical eros. Wattles had his own particular slant on this. In “Stay West, Young Man” he localizes the “harlotry” that drains the youth of the Midwest:
The East is an ulcerated carcass, bedecked like a courtesan, The West, like a boy, has heard her call and flushed through his coat of tan... (Wattles, 1916: 110)
and a couple of pages later identifies the cause:
The Old World’s foul corruption is 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... Out of the reek and swelter, our of the sink of shame, Shape us the perfect manhood that leaps like a living flame. (“Manhood”; Wattles, 1916: 114)
In Lanterns, Wattles enlists Whitman to his cause:
I now, Walt Whitman, In the twenty-fifth year of my wandering with invisible footstep Raising no dust in the green paths of heaven, More alive than I was in Camden, more so even than in Manhattan... I alive now, happy, rejoicing in manhood and in the increasing manliness and tenderness of lovers, Salute you, who thought I could lie still and not remember The flesh and the body, the roughs as well as the gentle... Come now, ye who have sworn by my pages, making out of my frankness a cult that I never intended, Fearing the open, lurking in pestilent cities, and hectic with milling together, In what was purest and manliest in me finding excuse for your ordure, With delicate fingers picking my body to pieces, Have done, I disown you! My most undeniable message. (“I Now, Walt Whitman”; Wattles, 1918: 81-2)
In short: “homosexuality”, effeminacy, medicalization and “third sexes” are the spew of Eastern cities, fed by Europe, and it is precisely the idealized masculine comradeship that he hymns, enacted in open fields under a cleansing sun, sealed in shared physical labor and bedding down together under the open skies, that will save our youth from it. One wonders what a cosmopolitan like Charles Hanson Towne made of this. Whatever; Wattles certainly must qualify as one of the most strident Uranian voices in America.
“Frankness,” when applied to Walt Whitman’s work as it is here, seems to have been a cipher for his advocacy of masculine relationships. In another poem to Walt Whitman from the same period, “Comrades and Lovers, Rest Not: For Walt Whitman, 1919”, in his collection The Carrying of the Ghost, Nelson Antrim Crawford (1888-1963) speaks of Whitman “the egotist, the unconventional, the liberal, the sincere, the frank, the free, the light hearted, the heroic,” and vows, “Walt Whitman will return to lead you on the open road of honesty, frankness and democracy” (Crawford, 1923: 68, 71). Though not, to the best of our knowledge, represented in Men and Boys, Crawford probably must be recognized as an Uranian author. In his collection there is not only a the poem to Whitman, but also “In the Shoeshine Parlor”, about a Greek shoeshine boy, and “Around You Music”, with its studied ambiguity of its lines
Around your head, boy-beautiful, there plays Gregorian music from a distant choir. (Crawford, 1923: 33).
Still another poem is entitled “In the Key of Blue”, and it is probably not by accident that this duplicates the title of J.A. Symonds 1893 study. Crawford received his Masters degree from the University of Kansas in 1914, where his career may have first crossed with Wattles’s. Certainly they were acquainted, for in 1919 Crawford was the publisher of Wattles’s war-time verses, Funston Double Track (Manhattan, Kansas: N.A. Crawford, 1919). A writer and editor himself, he was also associated with still another of our “Present-Day Poets”, David O’Neil, joining him in editing a Little Blue Book verse anthology, Today’s Poetry (#298; Girard, Kansas: E. Haldeman-Julius, 1923), and later provided the American introduction for Solon R. Barber’s collection Cross-Country (The Hague, Holland: Servire Press, 1931), which combines lustily heterosexual effusions with poems dedicated to various homosexual poets including Paul Bowles, Richard Thoma (who provides the Paris introduction) and Crawford himself.
If Wattles was perhaps the most strident American Uranian voice in that day, William Alexander Percy (1885-1942) has perhaps the greatest reputation today, in the field of literature for his autobiography Lanterns on the Levee (Percy, 1941), regarded as a Southern classic, but also for his role in the relief efforts after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, recently the subject of John M. Barry’s best-seller Rising Tide (Barry, 1997). While he was born and died in Greenville, Mississippi, where the Percys were wealthy plantation owners who had played a significant political role in the Deep South since colonial times, Will Percy’s life was hardly parochial. He was the second son of Mississippi’s Senator Leroy Percy, whose political career would be destroyed by his principled opposition to the Klan and Senator Bilbo’s ilk. Anglican and Presbyterian on his father’s side, and staunchly Roman on his mother’s, religion played a large part in his childhood – particularly the Catholicism of his maternal grandmother Mère, whom Will adored. The injunctions of religion – and particularly her faith – flowed together with the old planter aristocracy’s posture of noblesse oblige and the family tradition of public service to shape his sense of personal and social responsibility. Percy received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of the South (Sewanee) in 1904, and his law degree from Harvard in 1908. Between the two he made the first of his many trips to Europe. His emotional preference was for Italy, where; as indicated by two of the poems in his first book, one of the sites he visited was Taormina, Sicily, the home of Baron von Gloeden, noted for his photographic studies of nude Italian boys, and a place it would appear that no self-respecting Uranian left unvisited. In Sicily again in the late summer of 1914, he memorably learned of the assassination that would lead to the outbreak of hostilities when his guide on an assent of Etna told him the last visitor he had taken to the top was the Archduke in question (Percy: 1941: 157). Percy returned to Europe shortly thereafter to serve with Herbert Hoover’s Belgian Relief Commission, then saw action briefly as an officer in the American army, before returning to what might have been a genteel bachelorhood managing the family plantations and writing verse. But his existence was far from provincial: through the 1920s he continued to travel to Europe (he describes lunches in Florence with Norman Douglas in his introduction to the American edition of Douglas’s Birds and Beasts of the Greek Anthology (New York: Cape, 1929, pp. ix-xv)) and as far afield as Japan and Tahiti, frequently passing through New York, where he mixed with the literary set and members of the Harlem Renaissance (Dorothy Parker and Langston Hughes were among his guests back in Greenville), acted as the editor of the Yale Younger Poets series from 1925 to 1932, and, as we noted, played a major role in the relief efforts after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.
“A Page’s Song”, found on page 81 of Men and Boys with the poet’s initials reversed, is reprinted from Percy’s first book, Sappho in Levkas (Percy, 1915: 24). Only minor changes in the text are to be noted: the page’s “bridle” path here becomes “boyhood’s” path, and it is now fringed with “lads-love”, not the original “tulips”. In its original setting the poem bears the title “A Page’s Road Song”, and has the subscription “13th Century”. A number of Percy’s works, including his two most ambitious compositions, the verse play “In April Once” and the narrative poem “Enzio’s Kingdom”, share this fascination with the times of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, whose life had certain homosexual aspects, and whose court shared both Greek scholarship and morals, received from Arab lands. Percy’s evocation of this era was not just decorative, a chance to write of knights and their young pages – though the final scene of “In April Once”, where Guido, the darkly handsome Sicilian knight, dies in the arms of his faithful little page Felice, is surely one of the most affective in all Uranian literature. For Percy, this was an era which played out his own unresolved inner conflict between the transcendent Catholicism of his youth, with its power to raise men’s sights and hopes, and the worldly, pagan joyousness and freedom he later discovered in the ancient Greeks, which had blazed forth again in Frederick’s court. While this may have begun with the clash between the sexual injunctions of his faith, and the personal liberation he discovered in Italy –
To think nobility like mine could be Flawed – shattered utterly – and by... A slim, brown shepherd boy with windy eye And spring upon his mouth ...and I, who, most of all the world Loved purity and loathèd lust, Became the mark of mine own scorning... (“Sappho in Levkas”, Percy, 1915: 4, 7)
– that was but the fulcrum on which the conflict turned; even after Percy abandoned the practice of Catholicism, he never lost the sense of idealism and duty that had come with it. This conflict is central to both the long poems set in that era, but these deeply-felt polarities can be found throughout Percy’s oeuvre. On the one hand, his attraction to the ancients is seen in the number of his poems on classic themes, from the title poem of his first collection, “Sappho in Levkas”, where he uses the story of Sappho and Phaon to sing of masculine beauty (and, as we just saw, the moral confusion which ensues when one surrenders to it) in the feminine voice, through the “Arcadian Idyll” of mid-career, with its goatherd, a von Gloeden photograph in words:
A stripling, brown and roughened by the sun. Limpid breezes, Running slim fingers through his burnt black hair Have touselled it to elf-locks; Slender and straight, His thighs are hardened to the upward pull. (Percy, 1924: 59)
to his late “Legend of Lacedæmon”, where the brothers Castor and Pollux become the occasion to describe masculine love so close that “life for him was my companionship” (Percy: 1930: 253). On the other hand, Percy’s “Ballad of St. Sebastian”, while sharing a theme which fascinated the Uranians, focuses not on the naked form of the young martyr as do their poems, but treats the battle of faith and deadly reality (Percy, 1920: 101). Guido’s dying confession must be understood as Percy’s lament for himself:
I am beyond the laying on of hands. My deeds were not. My aspirations lacked Not beauty, but singleness of purpose. And I have lived. No priest can mend what’s broken here. And for the rest... I shall miss the iris skies and wet, clear stars Of these our April evenings... And thee, Felice... (Percy, 1920: 56)
Though objectively, given the constraints he faced, Percy would seem to have succeeded quite adequately in living with a fair degree of integrity, leaving a public legacy and a lasting literary heritage, if one could nevertheless could not claim the goodly deeds of faith, one could at least enjoy the beauty of all God’s creations – and it would seem Will Percy managed that too.
In recent years revelations about Percy’s sexuality have created controversy. Although a discerning eye could detect a certain amount in the chapter in his autobiography, Lanterns on the Levee, which dealt with his former caddy, chauffeur, house-boy and general factotum (Percy, 1941: 285-297), it remained for his great-nephew, Dr. William Armstrong Percy III, to confirm that in addition to a white “boyfriend” whose deathbed he could not attend because of the social censure, but whom he had buried in the Percy family plot (Percy, 1997: 85; see also Percy, 1941, p. 346; were there others?), Will had a series of interracial homosexual relations with black teenagers from Greenville, including Fode, who were taken on as employees, for whom he would provide education and, as they grew older, a start in a business or trade (Percy, 1997: 80-82) – not always with the same bittersweet outcome as Fode’s story, but sometimes better – and sometimes worse. Yet only a page before John Barry describes one such dubious incident involving Fode’s successor, Barry also summarizes Percy’s activities to shield the blacks of Greenville “in his own way” (Barry, 1997: 419-20), a way not rooted in some abstract notion, but a sense of personal connection (with all the blindnesses – albeit others than those of ideology – that go with it), in this case a connection shaped by homoerotic desire – the domestic, American version of a process entirely in line with what Aldrich, in his introduction to his final chapter “Anti-colonialism and homosexuality”, discusses in the international, colonial context (Aldrich 2003: 367-8).
The presence of the other Southerner in Men and Boys, Victor Stanley Starbuck (1887-1935), is more problematic. Born in Chuluota, Florida, Starbuck was a lawyer by profession, and an amateur poet. In 1920 he moved with his family to Ashville, North Carolina, there to lose his wife and daughter in an accident, and his fortune through bad investments. He had one volume of verse published, Wind in the Pines (New Haven: Yale U. Press, 1920), but the fragments which appear on page 80 of Men and Boys are from an uncollected work, “Night for Adventure”, which appeared in Poetry (Vol. 8, August, 1919, p. 234). The poem is a lengthy series of dream adventures, of which about half is reprinted here. There is nothing in this poem which reveals the least Uranian interest, unless it is the line about wandering “naked all from toe to tip”, nor are such themes notably present elsewhere in Starbuck’s work. Even his posthumously published epic poem, Saul, King of Israel, where one might expect the story of David and Jonathan to be prominent were he a Uranian, seemingly lacks this element. David is there, of course; it would be impossible to write Saul’s story without him:
The lad was but a stripling. Ruddy locks Curled round his brows, and he was fair of eyes, Yet hard and strong from following the flocks, Deep-browned by wind and sun and open skies; And sweetly could he play The shepherd’s harp, and pluck the zither’s string, And blow the syrinx, and could make and sing The simple pastoral, the sacred psalm, And the heroic lay. (Starbuck, 1938: 131)
But the parting of David and Jonathan consumes scarce a dozen lines, and the poem really is more the story of a man brought down by the hand of God and his own feelings – perhaps Starbuck’s reflections on his own life? Possibly he was included in the anthology because of private information about his sympathies; otherwise, it is hard to see why Starbuck’s work should have been chosen.
“H. Lange”, whose lines entitled “Boy Lovers” appear on page 81 of Men and Boys, is almost certainly Haniel Long (1888-1956). Born in Rangoon, Burma, where his parents were missionaries, Long was graduated from Harvard in 1910, and taught English at Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh from 1910 to 1929, when he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and set up a cooperative press. It was there he published his study Walt Whitman and the Springs of Courage (Santa Fe: Writers’ Editions, 1938), which includes a lengthy treatment of Whitman’s relationship with Peter Doyle.
Though the source of “Boy Lovers” has not been located, the style is like that of other pieces by Long, and his Poems holds a wealth of Uranian material. Among the poems there which indicate such interests are “Through the Window Near His Bed”, “The Faun” and “With Compliments” (Long: 1920: 7, 12 and 23), and Long’s story of a “Herd Boy”, which concludes:
I hung the cows with garlands, And proud they walked before, While mother-naked after A laurel branch I bore. (Long, 1920: 16)
The book also contains a series of poems to victims of World War I, including “Against the Rising Moon”, “For Richard”, “For Alan” and ‘For Oliver” , which opens:
Bright summers fade, and all bright faces too. It seems but yesterday beside the lake You stretched your brown length in the sun to bake. (Long, 1920: 63, 64, 66 and 65,respectively)
Perhaps one of the most sustained Uranian outpourings from any of these poets comes from Long’s hand, in a series of poems published under the collective title “Nudes” in the little magazine Others, Vol. 5, No. 2, June, 1919, pp. 1-4. Among the poems found there are “The Urchin”:
The garlanded Silenus of the dark fountain spouts water over a tiny bronze boy who averts his head patiently.
And now the tiny bronze boy has had enough, it seems; he detaches himself from the marble, walks diminutively into the bushes, resumes his little clothes.
I Two hundred small boys, splashing, wiggling together: exceeding disquiet of limbs, astounding impression of slender octopi, frantic.
II The Duchess and I regard you motionless, by the rhododendron. She said, “White bodies are too daring; only brown races should do that sort of thing.” Said I, “Duchess, that is a marble statue!” She looked again through her lorgnette. Then, idiot, you whooped, and leapt into the fountain.
and “The Cross”:
He comes down from the shore. His arms are wide, like a cross, and the water covers his knee bones, covers the dark hair at his middle, covers his waist, When it reaches his level arms, he pauses bird-like on the liquid air.
This last, the only one of the “Nudes” to appear again, becomes part of Long’s “Seventh Month Jottings” in Atlantides (Santa Fe: Writers’ Editions, 1933), with all the masculine pronouns altered to a neutral “your” or “your”.
Long also joined his close friend Witter Bynner and their mutual acquaintance Willard Wattles in circulating manuscript copies of their poems for each other’s critique. One of Long’s poems, entitled “The Hill-Top”, and dating from 1915, still exists in typescript among Wattles’s papers, indicating that not all their Uranian work reached print:
Long since, with you and Jack and Fred The clouted rubber ball I sped; Yet the warm sun is with me still Of days we played upon the hill.
This winter day I see the sight Of woods of green and limbs of white; A day intense with simple joys, A naked earth and naked boys.
“The Roads”, by the Rev. William Speer Strahan, C.S.C. (1898-1960), found on page 69 of Men and Boys, has been reprinted without any alterations from the poetry column of the June 17, 1916, Literary Digest (Vol. 52, No. 25, p. 1785), where it is identified as having originally come from the Notre Dame Scholastic. At the time of its publication Strahan was an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame, from which he was graduated in 1917. In that same year he was the co-editor, with the Catholic poet Charles L. O’Donnell, of Notre Dame Verse (South Bend, Indiana: Notre Dame Press, 1917), where “The Roads” again appears on page 22, but tellingly lacking the third verse. Strahan was born in Fife Lake, Michigan, returning there after his graduation from Notre Dame. After his ordination in 1925 he served in the Diocese of Grand Rapids until his death. Throughout his career his poems appeared regularly in Catholic periodicals.
David O’Neil (1874-1947) was a wealthy New York lumber dealer and amateur writer who retired at the age of forty-seven to his home in Connecticut to devote himself to literature. His contribution, on page 72 of Men and Boys, is reprinted without alteration from page 105 of his own book of verse, Cabinet of Jade, where it bears the title “The Beach”. As his book is singularly without other Uranian poems, the presence of this item by O’Neil here is probably to be credited to his being co-editor of an anthology of poetry for the Little Blue Books series with Nelson Antrim Crawford who, as we previously noted, had rather clear Uranian interests.
Of “Terriss Owens”:, who appears on page 70 of Men and Boys, so little is known that we can hardly even justify the word “identified”. No source has been uncovered for “Regret”, but the author is almost certainly Persis M. Owen, whose only known book of verse, Blue Seas and Barren Sands, came off the press much later than this anthology. Absolutely nothing is known of Owen’s life, same what can be abstracted from the poems. The book is divided into five sections: the first, war poems from Vimy, dated 1918, from which we may suppose war-time service, and, as it was the Canadians who faced the Germans at Vimy Ridge, near Arras, suspect that Owen was Canadian; the second, labeled and dated to Girgenti, Sicily (now Agrigento), 1925, a site we know was also visited by W. A. Percy on his travels (Percy, 1915: 69); a third to Abbazia (now Opatija, Slovenia), on the Adriatic, 1927; a fourth to Chimayo, New Mexico (near Santa Fe), 1930; and a final section labeled Taormina, 1933. The sex of the poet’s succession of lovers is never revealed, except once, in poem V from Abbazia, where we read:
Or pleadingly I begged a drink My parched and thirsty soul to ease But gaming in the market place You did not hear. He heard and game to me a cup And quenched my thirst And then again I begged of you To hold me close While night bloomed forth A velvet pansy field But worn from toil You slept nor woke He answered me and starred my night (Owen, 1933: 38)
We may conclude, then, that the author was either a Uranian – or a woman. In favor of the latter is the fact that Persis is a New Testament woman’s name (Romans 16:12) – although service at Vimy Ridge would seem to rule it out.
At least five of the poets whose work appears in Men and Boys were in fact women. “I Holt”, whose poem is found on page 68, is Isabella Holt (1892-1962), the novelist, whose poem, bearing the same title, appeared in an excessively obscure Chicago periodical, The Trimmed Lamp (Vol. 10, No. 11, April, 1916, p. 178), a predecessor to the better known Dial. It was reprinted in W.S. Braithwaite’s Anthology of Magazine Verse for 1916, page 161, the source from which it probably entered Men and Boys. The original was six verses long; it has here been cut to three, leaving the first, third and fifth. The only apparent reason for its inclusion is the reference to its subject “whom old men loved, and little boys / No whit the less.”
“Together”, on page 76, is a fragment from the pen of Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923), the British short story writer, and comes from her Poems (London: Constable, 1923). It is there entitled “Sleeping Together”, and this fragment comprises the first stanza and the last two lines of the original. Her “children”, in the fourth line, here becomes “boys”, and there are minor changes in the sixth and seventh lines as well. The rest of the poem is extensively mutilated. The eighth line appearing in Men and Boys is the sole survivor of a second stanza, while the line that follows is entirely the editor’s creation. The last two lines are indeed from Mansfield’s hand, but where the final line of the original repeats the first, here, to force a rhyme, it has been altered to “that yesterday”. It is ironic that Mansfield’s work should appear here, for her Journals reveal Lesbian experiences.
The irony of the appearance of work by the next woman poet is perhaps even greater. “E. Van Cleve”, whose lines on page 75 have been given the title “The Parting of the Ways”, is in fact Florence Van Cleve, a feminist poet and single mother – a rarity in 1920, and even rarer to be speaking out in poetry – who wrote of the pains of trying to raise a son alone. We have no biographical information about her, but we know that these lines came from the New York Times poetry column – yes, it did have a poetry column on its editorial page in the 1920s! – from Wednesday, September 28, 1921 (p. 18, col. 6). There it bears the title “Adolescence”. The first stanza is reprinted exactly, with the exception of the substitution of “lover” for “mother” in the eighth line. Then five lines from the original disappear, while the poem continues:
I had not thought it came so soon – the change. Only fourteen and still my little boy. For he and I have been such chums till now. But now – I cannot give him what he wants! Is it not cruel? Why is life so hard To women – more to mothers? Were it toys I’d find a way to compass it. It’s been my pride that he had everything That other boys – with fathers – have need of. I’ve been his Providence till now (and ah, What joy it was to be his Providence!) But now – soon I must stand aside and see Some other woman-soul take up my task And be to him what I have always been – Companion, chum, house-mate and comforter.
Yet another six lines of the original disappear here, and she concludes:
Well, I must hope The best – be cheerful; He so hates to see My face fall into haggard lines; and there! The evening’s over – that’s his step, thank God!
Readers can make their own comparisons of the changes, some subtle, some not so subtle, by which the Uranian lays claim here to the experience of the single mother, but at the same time one must be struck at how easily it is done, for the experience of the boy growing up, and, in the face of the boy’s dawning heterosexuality, the commonality of the plaint which the editor of Men and Boys has italicized, “I cannot give him what he wants!”, is truly shared. In the same year that Men and Boys was published another similar poem by Van Cleve, “Hagar in the Desert”, where the thief of “my boy’s childhood” is not a woman but child labor –
For there are so many bidding for him – For his strength – his adorable boy-strength; For his integrity – his courage; They cry at me in the daily papers: “Boy Wanted!” “Boy Wanted!” And money is so scarce.
– appeared in Poems of Child Labor, published by the National Child Labor Committee, New York (Publication Number 316), page 29.
Both the remaining female poets who appear in Men and Boys were associated with Willard Wattles. Esther Mary Clark (1876-??), fragments of whose poem “A Plea” appear under the title “Give Me One Friend” on page 83, was also from Kansas, and selections from her work had already appeared in Wattles’s Kansas collection Sunflowers. “A Plea”, however, comes from her first volume of poems, Verses by A Commonplace Person (Topeka, Kansas: Crane, 1906), where the poem, in its original form, dribbles on over three pages. The stanzas in Men and Boys are, in order of their appearance here, the first, fifth and third of the original.
“E. Tietiens”, whose poem “Youth” appears on page 82, is Eunice Tietjens (1884-1944), poet and for many years staff member of Poetry magazine in Chicago. Both Mrs. Tietjens and Wattles were members of the McDowell Colony, a poets’ and artists’ group at Peterborough, New Hampshire. This particular poem appears six years after its publication here as “Mortal”, on page 24 of Tietjens’s collection Leaves in Windy Weather (New York: Knopf, 1930). My examination of periodical sources for the period has failed to locate any other appearance of this poem prior to its 1930 publication, raising serious questions about how it came to be included here.
Finally, there is a sixth female poet whose work may be in Men and Boys, though the evidence is too slim to speak with certainty. “C. Worth”, whose “Possession” appears on page 76, may perhaps be identified as Kathryn Worth (1898-??), a minor poet and novelist from North Carolina. The source of these lines has not been located, and the body of her published work from these early years is too slight to make extended comparisons of style, but the metaphor of life as a crystal bowl is also to be found in her early poem “Unfilfillment”, in American Poetry Magazine, Vol. V, No. 9 (actually 7), October, 1922, p. 17.
A comment must also be made regarding the name “Louis Saunders Perkins”, attached to a poem on page 78 with the title “Genius”. Louise Saunders Perkins (1893-??), wife of Maxwell E. Perkins, the famous editor at Scribners, was known as a playwright and author of short stories for women’s magazines. On at least one occasion she did publish a poem, and while it shows no similarity to the selection here, we are left guessing whether this might be from her hand, or whether, as I believe is more likely, she has been the object of a joke. The similarity of names is certainly too obvious to overlook. As it happens, “Genius” is probably one of the strongest poems in the “Present-Day Poets” section – certainly it is the one which has been reprinted most frequently – which to my mind suggests that there might be a very accomplished poet working in a modernist style hidden behind the false name – someone who wanted to take the mickey out of Perkins and/or his wife by attributing an outspoken homophile poem to her. My suspicion is that our culprit may well be found in the circle around Witter Bynner, who with Arthur D. Ficke of course had been responsible for the Spectra hoax only a few years before. Long and Wattles also made up part of this circle, and could have served as a conduit for delivering the poem With regard to the poem itself, it must be noted that it shares a theme with “Rivals”, a contribution to the Second Pagan Anthology (New York: Pagan Publishing Co., 1919) by Archie Austin Coates (1891-19??). Interestingly, Charles Hanson Towne provided an appreciation for Coates’s second book, City Tides (New York: Doran, 1918); had he not already done something in that line, Coates could have been another candidate.
And a last minor mystery here, this time regarding a poet who is not in the anthology. George Edward Woodberry (1855-1930), a highly respected and popular professor of comparative literature at Columbia University from 1891 to 1904, and author of half a dozen collections of poetry with a pronounced Uranian slant – an early critical study on his work speaks of it containing “a whole row of young Sicilians” (Ledoux, 1918: 21) – cannot have escaped Slocum’s notice, if for no other reason than that he is the only other American poet aside from Whitman that Xavier Mayne esteems worthy of mention in his Intersexes, characterizing Woodberry’s “North Shore Watch” as “a poem hellenically passional, and of superior poetic quality” (Mayne, 1908/1975: 382). Because of the information (or misinformation) about Byron from The Intersexes which Slocum cites in his introduction to Byron’s work, we know Slocum had read Mayne’s book, and thus simply could not have been unaware of Woodberry, who should have been either in the “American Poets” section with Bayard Taylor, Whitman, “Clement Andrews” and “Edmund Edwinson”, the latter two of whom he far exceeds as a poet, or at least in the “Present-Day Poets”, as he was still actively publishing in 1920. There must have been some reason that Woodberry and his work was deliberately excluded, but fascinating as it would be to know, we are never likely to find out why this was.
The editorial process
Having noticed those “Present-Day Poets” who can be identified today, one final problem remains to be confronted. Though the length of his stay has not been established, Edward Mark Slocum was certainly in Medan, Sumatra, for at least some of the years prior to 1919, when many of these poems were being published. It is, of course, possible that the poems in this section were all collected in research done in the early 1920s after he arrived at Columbia. Slocum’s signature on the check-out cards of Columbia University Library copies of some of these poets’ works – for instance, Cecil Robert’s Poems – indicates that some of it was certainly done that way. Yet it would seem nearly impossible for him to have discovered the early and obscure Esther M. Clark stanzas that manner. While it is possible that Slocum did not go out to Sumatra until after 1916, or that he might have combed back issues of newspapers and magazines on his return, some of the more ephemeral appearances, such as Untermeyer’s Shakespeare tribute in the Boston Transcript, or Strahan’s poem in the Literary Digest, raise similar problems. And finally, the unpublished Long and Tietjens poems demand some other explanation.
While there is no question that primary responsibility for editing Men and Boys as a whole must be assigned to Slocum, apparently there was, for the “Present-Day Poets” section, a second person involved as well. Though nothing has been discovered that definitely links him to Slocum, circumstantial evidence points to Willard Wattles, who was teaching at the time near New York, in Storrs,. Connecticut, as the co-editor for this section. Wattles, having already anthologized Esther Clark’s work, could easily have been the source for her verse; as for Long’s otherwise unknown poem, though this particular item is not to be found among Wattles’s papers today, it has been established that Long and Wattles did trade similar manuscripts; regarding the Tietjens poem, the simplest solution has Wattles furnishing a manuscript he acquired during his association with her, perhaps at the MacDowell Colony or in correspondence. As Wattles’s own poems had been published in Poetry, the Transcript, and Braitewaite’s Annual, he probably watched these closely; this could account for the appearance here of the Untermeyer, Starbuck and Holt poems, all of which appeared in one or another of them.
The presence of his own lines is also simplified if we assume involvement on Wattles’s part. For precisely the section of a poem which the poet himself dropped between two 1919 appearances to be independently picked up by an anthologist at least a year later seems implausible; it is more reasonable to suggest that we have here lines which were contributed by their author for Men and Boys, lines which Wattles decided were too sensitive for general publication, but ideally suited for the more limited audience for which this anthology was intended.
Finally, Wattles’s papers show that he corresponded with other poets and literary figures of his day; two authors with whom he frequently exchanged letters were Charles Hanson Towne and Christopher Morley. This means that Wattles was at least familiar with their work; whether they were aware of the anthology in which their work was included is, on the basis of present evidence, impossible to say. But that there was a circle (or perhaps more of ellipse with two foci) of American Uranian authors, connected at least by correspondence, seems certain. On one hand, we have Slocum, with his British contacts and his own research, working together with Wattles; on the other Wattles and at least his two correspondents Haniel Long and Witter Bynner, and quite probably Nelson Antrim Crawford. Other possible members might have been Charles Hanson Towne, perhaps Christopher Morley (depending on one’s judgement of his “Parsons’ Pleasure”), Robert Hillyer (a close friend of Bynner, though not evidently among Wattles’s correspondents), Scudder Middleton (1888-1959, another associate of Bynner, who, seeing the way names are altered for “Present-Day Poets”, could well be behind the “Sanford Middleton” of page 73), and the otherwise mysterious Persis Owen, who might well be linked to Haniel Long by the visit to New Mexico soon after Long’s move to Santa Fe. The relation of other poets such as Percy and Malloch to this circle remains more problematic, although the former certainly did pass through New York often enough that he was probably acquainted with figures like Towne. It is quite probable, however, that some of the other “Present-Day Poets” whom we have not identified – amateur poets whose work appears under the names Bert Adair, Mark Beecher, Wayne Gordon, Vincent Scarford, Clifford Whitford and Sydney Wilmer, with the initials E.W.H., D.B. and S.B., and over the pseudonyms “Fidian” and “Giles de Gilles” – as well as the more important “Clement Andrews”, were also members. One might also speculate on whether Rev. Satcher had become acquainted with Slocum this early, and might have been a member.
Was this group more formal than a circle of correspondents? There is one thing which suggests it was. The prospectus for Men and Boys, sent by Slocum to the Rev. A.R.T. Winckley and now preserved with his copy of the book in the British Library, states that the anthology was “Approved by the American Society for the study of Sex Psychology”. This is clearly styled after the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology, which had been founded in 1913. Although it was the intention of the society to investigate all sexual questions in relation to society, including birth control, abortion, and other forms of sexual deviance, with the recruiting of Edward Carpenter one of the most active sub-groups was devoted rather exclusively to studying and propagandizing for homosexuality. Among the members of the sub-group who are relevant here were the schoolmaster and poet John Gambril Nicholson (three examples of whose work appear on pages 50 and 51 of Men and Boys, and whose library, as it was catalogued for sale in the Catalogue of Selected Books from the Private Library of a Student of Boyhood, Youth and Comradeship in 1924, included a copy of the anthology), Leonard Green (at whose home the sub-group sometimes met) and George Cecil Ives, who presented his paper on the Græco-Roman view of youth at a Society meeting – the latter two known to have been correspondents and acquaintances of Slocum. Further, it is the considered opinion of d’Arch Smith that the sub-group informally functioned as sponsor for an attempt at publishing in 1920, with The Quorum (d’Arch Smith, 2001: 13-4). He further refers to the sub-group as an “exterior lodge” (“to speak masonically”) for Ives’s Order of Chaeronea, a secret society for homosexuals structured along Masonic lines (d’Arch Smith, 2004: 214; see also d’Arch Smith, 2001: 13), which Matt Cook, in his study of London’s homosexual culture organised largely around the figure of Ives, terms “an exclusive and secretive support and pressure group composed of men who drew on Hellenism to understand and legitimise their desires”, granting it an implicit political purpose that d’Arch Smith, from his occult and lite4rary perspective, would deny it (Cook, 2003: 32-3, see also 138-44). While it might be doubtful that an American like Slocum would have been inducted into the Order, he most certainly knew of the British Society whose name is borrowed here, could have used it as a model for an American counterpart, and further might well have been inspired to his own publishing effort by their attempt with The Quorum, or their program of publishing lectures presented before the Society. To the best of our present knowledge, there was never any public record of the American group or its meetings, which may be taken to mean that it was not as well organised or active as its British counterpart, and certainly shorter-lived. But such a group would obviously have provided a potential audience for the sale of this anthology. And to suppose that the “Present-Day Poets” section contains work by members of such a group, supplemented by Slocum’s research and Wattles’s collecting and contributions – some of them inappropriate – helps to explain the curious blindness of this section, ignoring some obvious Uranian voices while including other lower quality or irrelevant material.
There one final mystery regarding Men and Boys which should also be broached here. Two copies of the anthology exist with an initial page, after the front free endpaper and a flyleaf and before the title page, which has been cut out of all the others, leaving only a stub of about one centimeter. On examination of the copies which retain this page, one finds on the recto this pastiche of an academic thesis:
A SYMPOSIUM OF POEMS AND POETS ON UNUSUAL AND EXTRAORDINARY MANIFESTATIONS OF AFFECTION.
Presented to the Faculty of Abnormal Psychology of Columbia University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Abnormal Psychology.
By William Elphinston, A.B. New York, N.Y., 1924.
On the verso is this preface:
Poetry has long been the outlet of the overburdened man, overwhelmed by an emotion too futile or impracticable to be realized. The student of Abnormal Psychology has hitherto neglected this field as a proper study for the scientist in revealing the diversities and depths of human souls. This symposium is an attempt to gather in one collection a series of poems and poets on an unusual and extraordinary affection for youths. It should be kept in mind that most of these expressions are strained and exaggerated. It is incredible that many of them should mean what they appear to mean. They should be regarded as rhetorical “tours de force”, as attempts to express one’s self in some unusual way. But they are, therefore, not the less interesting to the psychoanalyst and the psychologist, who can disentangle from an exaggerated emotion the true meaning of the man behind the emotion. This, then, is the reason for this collection. It gathers in one catena a striking collection of unusual poems and poets for comparison and study in the disentanglement of human motives.
In his article on Edmund John, Timothy d’Arch Smith takes a stab at explaining this extraordinary effusion:
Slocum included John’s ‘Seven Gifts’ in an anthology which he submitted to his university ‘in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Abnormal Psychology’ entitling his compilation, ‘A Symposium of Poems and Poets on Unusual and Extraordinary Manifestations of Affection.’ The dissertation had already been set in type as by ‘William Elphinstone’ [sic] when some event occurred to prevent publication in that form. Either Slocum’s supervisors did not care for the subject-matter or, on reading his preface were disappointed to find themselves short-changed, , since the ‘affections’ announced on the title-page were qualified in this preamble as representative only of the more pronounced affections ‘for youth’. Perhaps too, they felt not enough original writing nor interpretative criticism had been brought to bear upon a thesis at the same time they could hardly have dismissed as unoriginal. Whatever the reason, the paper did not find favor; and the book, limited to 150 copies, was issued with a new title-leaf, simply reading Men and Boys, An Anthology. (d’Arch Smith, 1998: 27-8)
This is followed by a footnote crediting the proprietor of Elysian Fields booksellers in Queens, New York, as the source of his information, and noting the copy in question bears the “ownership stamp” (actually, a label) of Herbert Boyce Satcher.
It is hard to know whether to take this explanation seriously, or whether it too is as much a leg-pull as I suspect the excised page to be. Perhaps in taking it seriously, I am falling into the same trap I am about to accuse d’Arch Smith of having fallen in by taking the bogus pre-title page and preface in earnest. But to begin: the book was not “issued with a new title-leaf”, but merely had the leaf ahead of the title excised. Substantively, although Columbia had a Department of Psychology since 1890, to the best I have been able to determine it has never had a “Faculty of Abnormal Psychology”, nor did it issue degrees in the subject. Even if it did, the idea of someone being permitted to submit a dissertation under a pseudonym is absurd.
It is my supposition that this leaf represents one of two things – or perhaps a combination of the two. It could be an outright joke at the expense of either Slocum’s prospective alma mater, or some of the sexological literature of the period – for instance, the multi-volume, fully illustrated collections of smut being produced in Germany by Dr. Ernst Schertel on Flagellantismus and other deviations, with precisely the stated motive of providing source material for the study of psychologists who might not have encountered these rare but increasingly frequent perversions in their practice yet; the rather stilted language of the preface about the “diversities and depths of human souls”, which at least at this remove reads like a send-up of high-minded justification for low tastes, might tend to support this. Or it is an attempt to divert attention from those who actually produced the anthology, one part red herring, with the creation of a second pseudonym even beyond the “Edmund Edwinson” of the body of the book, and one part redeeming social value. Or it could combine these: an attempt to send up academia while laying a false trail.
What, then, was the “event that occurred” and caused the removal of the page? It may have dawned on someone that Columbia might not be amused, and that this attribution might in fact prove counterproductive. The other, more plausible explanation is that someone realized that a practical joke like this – and one which treated the love of youths as “abnormal”, to boot – in fact undermined the reason for preparing the anthology and the serious work which had gone into it. The important thing to note about this leaf – which on its face would vitiate everything I have had to suggest here about the intentions of the collection – is that it was apparently excised from the vast majority of the copies. Among the four whose provenance we can trace, it was removed from the copy sold to Rev. Winckley, from the copy inscribed to Dr. Havelock Ellis by Slocum himself, and from the copy in the hands of Jonkheer Jacob Schorer and the Dutch Scientific Humanitarian Committee (assuming that is also the copy now in the Kinsey Institute; see note 12). One can, in fact, hardly imagine the book being presented to Havelock Ellis or Schorer with this leaf intact. While it was evidently removed from all copies publicly distributed, it remained intact in the copy which passed from Slocum to Satcher along with Lads o’the Sun, which suggests that a handful of intact copies were held by Slocum and distributed only to friends or collectors who would appreciate them as a curiosity.
Men and Boys is one of the rarest, most puzzling (even after the major mysteries about its who edited it and how it came to be produced have been solved) and most significant of early homophile publications.
When I provided an introduction to the facsimile reprint of Men and Boys three decades ago, in it I spoke of “Calamites”, choosing to use that term for the Uranians’ American contemporaries, in the belief that they had to be considered as more or less separate from the British poets that d’Arch Smith had chronicled in Love in Earnest. For anyone who had read this far, it will be clear that I have abandoned that term here. Over the past three decades we have learned enough more about Edward Mark Slocum and his transatlantic contacts, in particular with key Uranians such as Leonard Green and George Cecil Ives, that we can establish a formal contact between the British and Americans, deep enough that it is no longer surprising that what d’Arch Smith termed “the best collection of Uranian poetry” should have been produced in New York. Perhaps more important, we have learned enough more about other American Uranian voices – both those included in Men and Boys and those who for whatever reasons were not there – to realize that their influences, their allusions, their themes and the use they made of them, are entirely consistent with their British counterparts. These influences passed both ways: Woodberry, for instance, was as much influenced by Walter Pater as any of the British Uranians, while Edward Carpenter was no less influenced by Whitman than Wattles or Nelson A. Crawford were. I have recently examined these shared influences, allusions, themes and intentions at length with regard to the Greeks (Mader, 2006), one of the most important sources on which Uranians on both sides of the Atlantic drew. In light of these shared elements, just as much as any formal contacts, we must now – unlike thirty years ago – recognize the Uranians to have been an international phenomenon in English-language homosexual literature. The first importance of Men and Boys is as a witness to that.
The second point where Men and Boys is important is its substantive, or perhaps programmatic side. “Programmatic” is not a term which anyone would have thought of using for it thirty years ago. The Uranians, as treated by d’Arch Smith, and the “Calamites” as I dealt with them at the time, were a literary movement, and a minor one at that. To the extent that their overlap with organizations like the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology and Ives’s Order of Chaeronea has been uncovered since, d’Arch Smith has treated this as an occult phenomenon, continuing to insist that the Uranians had no “political” program. This has been challenged by scholars such as Matt Cook (Cook, 2003). From a somewhat different angle, drawing on critical thinking in the arts over the past three decades about artistic strategies on political and social issues, and in particular strategies for valorizing sexual and gender dissidence, I have also challenged this a-political view of the Uranians (Mader, 2006: 388-9). In regard to the allusions to the Greeks, I concluded that far from a means of evasion, as d’Arch Smith had interpreted them, the allusions were an instrument for valorization in a strategy for social acceptance.
An anthology like Men and Boys was an essential element in such a strategy – even as were its progenitors, Kupffer’s Lieblingsminne and Carpenter’s Ioläus. As opposed to Hirschfeld and his medical model, the Uranians, and the side of the German homophile movement around Benedict Friedlaender, von Kupffer, Adolf Brand and Der Eigene, Hans Blüher, Gustav Wyneken, and John Henry Mackay (for all their mutual differences) held homosexuality to be essentially a cultural phenomenon. On the one hand, this meant that (with the exception of Mackay, whose appeal was purely political) they looked to cultural sources (largely Classical) for its valorization; in a sense, Men and Boys, with its assemblage from the most honored poetic expressions of the ages, seeks to be the acme of this argument.
Another aspect of this cultural orientation was that the Uranians – again, like the same wing of the German movement, and perhaps Wyneken in particular – saw a function for their affections within society. If the Uranians were characterized by a cultural argument, they were equally characterized by their discourse on asymmetrical relationships. As I have argued, I think it is important to see the Uranians not merely as espousing age-differentiated (i.e., man/boy) relationships, but also power- or class-differentiated relationships (or indeed relationships which were both, with a boy of a lower class), which were to be characterized by a somewhat paradoxical combination of democracy and “natural aristocracy” which the Uranians typically found in the Greeks: the man’s discovery of the natural aristocracy in the boy or socially disadvantaged partner in the relationship, and the development of those qualities to raise him to equality, which was thus a goal rather than a precondition for the relation (Mader, 2006: 402-12). This could take many forms, from Wyneken’s pedagogical eros to Wattles’s moral rearmament (or perhaps we should say rearmourment?), all the way to Percy’s or Stuart-Young’s interracial relationships in domestic or colonial settings. Even someone like Malloch, who has room for egalitarian relationships among his lumberjacks, also honors the role of the “elder chum”, and even in the rewriting of a poem like Florence Van Cleve’s “Adolescence” – and certainly in the anonymous poem which shares the page with it – we see testimony to this pedagogical purpose. Men and Boys provides us with a reader for this now largely suppressed, and indeed reviled, discourse on male erotic relationships.
As such, it is also evidence, a testimony, to this lost strand in the discourse on male intimacy and desire. It is physical evidence that this discourse had reached a sufficient organizational stage in America in 1924 to be able to put out such a book. The last decades have also seen the discovery of the work of Henry Gerber (1895-1972) as the “grandfather of the American gay movement” in his founding of the Society for Human Rights (SHR) in Chicago in December of 1924, the same year that Men and Boys appeared (J. Kepner and S.O. Murray, “Henry Gerber (1895-1972): Grandfather of the American Gay Movement”, in Vern L. Bullough (ed.), Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park, 2002), pp. 24-34). His context was the Hirschfeld side of the German movement – and his experience makes clear precisely the sort of danger with which Slocum and his American Society for the Study of Sex Psychology had to contend. His society, and his book, testify that there was also organizing, in precisely the same period, based on the British, Uranian discourse. Slocum – and Wattles – deserved a chapter in Before Stonewall, just after Gerber’s.
However vilified age-asymmetric relations, and the arguments for them, may be today, the relationships have not disappeared from human experience, and there will necessarily come a time when the arguments will be heard again. Men and Boys keeps that discourse alive.
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