queer as london

Timing is Everything

The famous Cleveland Street scandal, which involved the discovery of a homosexual male brothel by London police, began in July 1889. Sex between men was illegal; clients faced persecution and social exclusion if found out.

Arthur Conan Doyle met Oscar Wilde at a publisher’s dinner in August 1889, during the height of the Cleveland Street scandal. Conan Doyle liked Wilde; afterwards he called it “a golden evening.”

The Sign of Four appeared in print in February 1890. In the story, John Watson, previously a bachelor, is presented with a potential (and eventual) wife.

The Picture of Dorian Gray was published in July 1890; the original version contained a reference to the Cleveland Street scandal. The novel was later used against Wilde at his trials for the text’s allusions to homoeroticism.

Did Victorian-Era Gay Men Think Sherlock Holmes Was Gay?

Something I’ve often wondered about is whether or not there is any documentation that any contemporaries of the Sherlock Holmes stories in any way thought them to be gay. What I mean is: did any homosexual men read the stories and understand the characterisation/subtext to imply, if not johnlock vibes, at least homosexuality, not least for the character of Sherlock Holmes himself?

I have come to the end of the book London and the Culture of the Homosexuality, 1885-1914 by Matt Cook and it seems he’s saved a lovely bit for last.

My new fave George Ives (I’ve written about him in other posts) kept meticulous journals, much of which informed Cook’s work. Ives routinely engaged in self-examination against the stereotypes of homosexuals newly outlined by sexologists and found himself similar in some ways and different in others, both of which he carefully recorded in his diaries. He noted his “keen aesthetic sense” and “lack of taut muscle”, among other things.

In March 1901, Ives records in his diary that he considers himself to be:

 “the Sherlock Holmes of a 1000 little peculiarities”

Here we have a man who identified as homosexual relating to a character who he may have recognised to be homosexual as well. Ives definitely doesn’t write “yeah I’m gay and I know Holmes is gay too” but I think it’s interesting that he would have included this little comparison in alongside his descriptions of whether or not he matches the “gay profile”.

(Previous posts in my series on London and the Culture of Homosexuality, 1885-1914 by Matt Cook can be found here.)

Born Hannah Gluckstein to a wealthy and close-knit London family in 1895, the artist Gluck changed her name (forbidding the addition of quotes or prefix) in her early adulthood. A sharply dressed fixture on the London scene of the 1920s and ’30s, she held a number of highly praised “one-man shows” at the Fine Art Society on London’s Bond Street. For these, she painted scenes from the London stage, the landscape of Cornwall and Sussex, startling and modish arrangements of flowers, portraits of those in her social circle and surprisingly candid depictions of her romantic life. Some 90 years after her first exhibition at the Fine Art Society, the gallery is staging a substantial retrospective alongside a group show responding to Gluck’s legacy.  

As she entered adult life, Gluck commenced wearing tailored suits, and had her hair cut at a gentlemen’s hairdresser and her footwear made by the royal bootmaker. This portrait of Gluck in her artist’s smock, taken in 1926 when she was 31, was by Howard Coster, a self-styled “photographer of men.”

via: T Magazine / Fine Art Society, London

London and the Culture of Homosexuality -- Masterpost

I’ve finished the book London and the Culture of Homosexuality, 1885-1914 by Matt Cook. We’ve learned a lot along the way and now that it’s finished, I thought I’d compile everything into one post for easier access.

1) Empty train carriages, Molly houses, and moustaches on trial

2) “That’s not a sentence you hear every day” - how modern Sherlock incorporates Victorian-era facial hair code

3) Gay lit is gay, the Criterion bar is gay, Turkish baths are gay, green carnations are gay, button holes are gay

4) Homosexual men loved to liaise at the Criterion Bar

5) TJLC is Real: Carefully-Chosen Words and Public Opinion

6) Sherlock fits a case study of a period-relevant homosexual man

7) Anal violins

8) Gay graffiti worth writing about in your memoirs

9) Cabs were helpful, Gothic romance was queer, literary gay subtext was criminal evidence, the male-on-male gaze was a stand-in for sex, and idealised male nudes were all the rage

10) Every Great Cause Has Martyrs - how language used in the TAB trailer mirrors that used by Victorian homosexual men

11) Did Victorian-Era Gay Men Think Sherlock Holmes Was Gay?

12) The closest thing I’ve ever written to a personal TJLC manifesto

Discussions/asks/misc with other people about the book: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here

Buy the book online

Thank you to everyone who read/commented/liked/reblogged posts from my little readalong liveblog. I loved doing it and I hope you liked it too.

Up next:

Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century by Graham Robb