People with a History: An Online Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans* History
Section III: Europe to World War I
Go to the following pages for other parts of People with a History
Chapter 10: Early Modern Europe
The great distinction between "modern" and "ancient
and medieval" history lies in the quantity of available sources.
In pre-modern culture we rely primarily on literary and legal
sources to understand homosexuality. Both types of source are
highly distorting. Although we can - with care - outline the contours
of some "homosexual" subcultures in pre-modern societies,
such efforts always remain tentative.
From the late fifteenth century in Europe this all changes. Large
amounts of source material begins to survive, and new sorts of
material at that. Most important are court records - especially
when full trial records remain. So great are the survivals in
some Italian cities that statistical surveys of the data are possible
(for which see the work of Michael Rocke and Guido Ruggiero in
the bibliography). The sources are not perfect, but now a social
history is possible.
Real progress has been made for some parts of Europe - especially
Italy. Other areas remain less well investigated. But debates
are now flourishing about what exactly was the social "identity"
of homosexually active men (there is still not enough evidence
to document Lesbian subcultures until much later than for males).
At the same time, the types of "homosexual source" we
have for previous societies continued to be produced. Plays and
poems are less central to our conception of homosexuality in this
period, but they remain important. Especially because we now have
evidence about audience and styles/occasions of performance, socially
significant inferences can be made. This data cannot be disgarded.
Texts: Legal and Historical
- The Law in England, 1290-1885, texts
of the major laws.
The Act of 1533, which first made buggery
a crime under English Criminal Law [At Knitting Circle]
- Homily Against Adultery and Whoredom, from Short-Title Catalogue 13675. Renaissance Electronic Texts 1.1.1994 Ian Lancashire (ed.) [At U. Toronto]
With some discussion of Sodom! The Woman-Hater's Lamentation, 1707 [At Rictor Norton's website]
- But Among Our Own Selves, 1728 [At Rictor Norton's website]
- Molly Exalted, 1763 [At Rictor Norton's website]
- Documents of Early Modern Queer History [At Rictor Norton's website]
[Rictor Norton has informed me that "During the coming few months I hope to add pages on various broadside ballads, satires and trials, e.g. John Dunton's The He-Strumpets, 1710; The State of Rome, 1739; Love in the Suds, 1772; excerpts from Sodom and Onan; a molly trial of 1709; a molly trial of 1707; A Sapphick Epistle, 1777; the Latin Epitaph on Bob Jones, 1773; A Dialogue Concerning Venus, 1691, and Jenny Cromwell's Complaint Against Sodomy, 1690s."]
Montaigne: A Homosexual Marriage in Rome, [At Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Catholic Handbook].
Account of a gay marriage in 16th-century Rome by Montaigne.
- Michael Drayton (1563-1631): Piers Gaveston [extracts]
- Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593): Edward II
- Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593): "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" [At Rjgeib.com]
Presents it as a heterosexual poem!
Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593): Amorous Neptune [At WWU]
- Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593): Jupiter and Ganymede
- Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593): Hero and Leander
William Shakespeare (1564-1616): Sonnets [At Eserver]
See esp. 20, 29, 35, 36, 53, 55, 57, 60, 67, 87, 94,104,
110, 116, 144.
- Richard Barnfield (1574-1627): The Affectionate Shepherd
Famous for the line "If it be a sinne to love a lovely
lad/Oh, then sinne I"
- Thomas Heywood (1574?-1641): Jupiter and Ganimede
- Charles Churchill (1731-1764): from The Times
Poetry of Aphra Behn,
selections at [Sappho.Com]
The first women to earn her living by writing in English.
- Montague Summers, ed.: Memoirs of Mrs. Behn [At Adelaide]
- Der Dichter Friederich Hoelderlin [At Sternenfall]
Back to Contents
Chapter 11: Nineteenth-Early Twentieth-Century Europe
- Anna Seward (1747-1809): Poems on Female Friends
- Lord (George Gordon) Byron (1784-1824): Don Leon (attrib?)
The poem is passionate defense of homosexuality, and is usually
attributed to Byron
Lord George Byron: Selected poetry
Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892): Selected Poetry [At U. Toronto]
Walter Pater (1839-1894): Selected Poetry [At U. Toronto]
- Bertram Lawrence (pseud. of J. F. Bloxam): Poem: "A Summer Hour",
- John Francis Bloxam: Story: The Priest and the Acolyte,
An extraordinary short story which combines high ritualism, saccharin
melodrama, and a quite specific plea for acceptance of difference.
- Fr. Faber:
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889): Select Poetry [At U. Toronto]
A gay Jesuit priest and poet. See "Felix Randell" and
"The Bugler Boy's First Communion".
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889): Poems, [At Bartleby]
- Paul Verlaine (1844-1896): Romances sans paroles, 1874, [At Geneva][In French]
- Arthur Rimbaud (1854 - 1891): Une saison en enfers, 1873, [At Geneva][In French]
- Arthur Rimbaud (1854 - 1891): Poé
sies Ophélia, 1870, [At Geneva][In French]
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900): Ballad of Reading Gaol [At Project Gutenberg]
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900): The Complete Shorter Fiction & Poems in Prose [At Bibliomania.com]
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900): Poems [At Bartleby]
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900): Selected Works [At Oscar Wilde Collection]
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900): The Picture of Dorian Gray, [At Project Gutenberg] [Full Text]
- Lord Alfred Douglas (1870-1945): Two Poems,
A.E. Houseman (1859-1936): A Shropshire Lad [At Bartleby]
- Pierre Louys (1870-1925): from Chansons de Bilitis [in English]
- Marcel Proust (1871-1922): A Race Accursed
Back to Contents
© 1997, Paul Halsall, [a picture!]
Note: I read all mail, and keep much of it, but I will
not be able to reply to all notes.
Last updated April 11, 2007