Susan Lee Cable
When Donald Mader penned the scrupulously scholarly introduction involving tireless detective work to identify the anonymous editor of Men and Boys (1924) in 1974, he dubbed these Americans who wrote love poems to boys Calamites, from the sections of Leaves of Grass that were the most pederastic. In the 1990’s, Donald reconsidered. Because those Americans, almost all the upper class, were in such close and frequent contact with their English peers, he changed the name to Uranians. Timothy d’Arch Smith dubbed Uranians in Love in Earnest (1970). Mader detected the English poets of boy-love from a catalog in a library of one of their own. So Mader decided to rechristen American Calamites, Uranians, abandoning his neologism Calamites in favor of the reference to the Platonic Dialog Symposium.
In his original introduction, Mader had identified the original anonymous compiler and most of the poets such as my uncle William Alexander Percy, printed in Men and Boys as A.W. Percy with a slightly altered poem. Many of the other poems were slightly altered by the original editor. Now Mader either was even more astonished then I when an elegant lady from Denver informed us simultaneously that her grandmother, heretofore described as a male, was writing love poems to her beautiful husband and that grandmother wasn’t a man, as all people had assumed him before.
In pleasant phone conversations with Dr. Cable, I suggested that her grandmother’s husband, whom she so adored, dragged her to a number of the resorts in Europe most frequented by Uranians and may himself, beautiful and probably vain as he may have been, was perhaps either a Uranian himself pursuing boys, was pursued as a boy, or perhaps both. In that case, his adoring wife might have been naïve or perhaps also sophisticated enough to please his fellow boy-lovers and him with poems that were so easily misinterpreted. Incredibly, two other female poets (I dare not use the word poetess because it is not considered politically incorrect) were included and Mader knew that. Many, including Mader and d’Arch Smith, considered the whole group - English or American - inconsequential poet tasters. But I agree with Michael Matthew Kaylor who added to the Uranians Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, and Henry James to the group that d’Arch Smith had excluded, calling them the Greater Uranians. Indeed, they were very influential. Many of them held the most important positions in the British government - including Prime Minister – when the sun never set on the British Empire.
The almost accidental addition of the Labouchere Amendment to the Law of 1885, designed by Parliament to protect female children and adolescents from prostitution, caused great harm. It ensnared many of these very elite because for the first time in English law they could get up to two years hard labor for lewd and lascivious behavior with males. Before that time, only buggers could be punished by death up until 1861 but after that the death sentence was removed and buggers were rarely convicted. Many judges and lawyers of the highest reputation debated whether conviction of buggery required ejaculation or not as well as penetration, making the law hardly used. But the Labouchere Amendment was the joy of blackmailers. They thrived on it and the elites feared, as indeed they had done in Germany when the Prussian Code 175 was imposed on the Rhineland of south Germany, inducing the start of the homophile reform movement in Germany.
The Cleveland Street Scandal involved boys who delivered telegrams who were very attractive because of their access on bicycles, preceded the trials of Wilde, who had been forewarned not to be so open about Walter Pater. When Oscar’s trial began, he had three plays on stage in London. Even in my youth, of all the plays written before the end of the 19thcentaurystill regularly performed (not including Shakespeare and Marlow), the only English playwright who was performed with some regularity was Oscar Wilde. Of course, Chekhov was still performed, as was Shaw who was after 1900 and occasionally along with Pirandello and some French writers. Noel Coward was being performed, who was Oscar Wilde’s more discreet successor. The journey of this icon put a damper on the upper classes’ openness in all Anglophonic countries, lasting until the 1940’s or even 1950’s!
The fall of our most outspoken hero, Wilde, was much more damaging to our cause than that of Alan Turing, who was forced to receive female hormones after the discovery of his homosexuality. Because he was the main worker eventually cited in decoding Enigma, he should have been included in Winston Churchill’s famous remarks. Enigma allowed the Royal Air Force to shoot down the Luftwaffe and the Royal Navy to stop German submarines, ceasing the starvation of Britain. Turing should have been included among those whom Churchill said “never before in all of human endeavor have so many owed so much to so few” when speaking of those spitfire fighters who were enabled by Turing’s achievement. Such was the destruction of these two heroes, Wilde and Turing.
Turing was mentioned in C.A. Tripp’s The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, which I helped get out and am acknowledged in the introduction to the section edition. Tripp, being a member of the Kinsey circle, realized the importance of Turing’s prosecution but I think Wilde’s was more significant.