Hidden: The Intimate Lives of Gay Men Past and Present

Hidden: The Intimate Lives of Gay Men Past and Present

by Clinton Elliott


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A charming, witty and wide-ranging collection of brief biographies of closeted gay men in modern and early modern history, Hidden: The Intimate Lives of Gay Men Past and Present includes colorful snapshots of such well-known men as Horatio Alger, Thomas Eakins, King Edward II, Alfred C. Kinsey, and Siegfried Wagner.

Readers will find joy and sorrow and pleasure and pain in these 400 biographies of men who were forced to live hidden lives. All were caught in the tension between the torment of secrecy and the calamity of revelation. How did they manage their difficult lives? How indeed did they survive?

One who did was James Brooke. He turned his inheritance into a 142 ton schooner, sailed for the East Indies, seized the northern part of Borneo and proclaimed himself Rajah of Sarawak. Among those who did not survive was Jan Quisthout Van der Linde, a soldier in New Amsterdam (not yet New York). He was stripped of his arms, his sword broken at his feet. He was then tied in a sack, thrown into the Hudson River and drowned until dead.

While illuminating individuals, the book also provides rich cultural and historical content, including the trial of those over-the-top transvestites Ernest Boulton 'Stella of the Strand' and Frederick 'Fanny' Park; and a delightful description of the 5th Marquess of Anglesey as he parades along the boulevards of Paris rouged, powdered and perfumed, cradling an equally perfumed poodle festooned with pink ribbons.

Written in clear, concise, and lively prose, Hidden offers a substantive and extensive look at men who lived their lives in conflict with their sexuality.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781481765114
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 02/03/2014
Pages: 394
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.88(d)

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Copyright © 2013 Clinton Elliott
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4817-6511-4



J. R. Ackerley 1896–1967

Joe Ackerley was an English memoirist, novelist, biographer, and for many years (1935–1959) the influential arts editor of the BBC magazine, The Listener. Among the careers he promoted were those of the poets W. H. Auden and Philip Larkin and the novelist Francis King.

He was twice wounded and taken prisoner in World War I. After his discharge and with a recommendation from E. M. Forster he went to India for five months as companion to an eccentric maharajah whose philosophical quest was to find "the ultimate meaning of meaning" and whose pleasure was loving his collection of lovely boys. The visit was immortalized in the novelized memoir, Hindoo Holiday (1932).

In his posthumously published memoir, My Father, Myself (1968), he tells how in doing research on his father's life he was shocked to discover that his father like himself had lived a secret homosexual life. One of his father's lovers was an older wealthy patron, Count de Gallatin, who gave him his start in business. His father, however, married twice and had several female lovers, a notable difference.

Ackerley is forthcoming about his sexual life. He describes how in searching for "The Ideal Friend" he picked up and paid for the services of young guardsmen, sailors, and laborers among hundreds of lovers. He never found his ideal and turned instead to his dog Queenie whose name was changed by the editor of his published memoir My Dog Tulip (1956).

Harold Acton 1904–1994

The trajectory of Harold Acton's life from Bright Young Thing at Oxford to Grand Panjandrum of theVilla La Pietra must be unique in the annals of English letters.

Determined to "excite rage among the Philistines" at college, he seized a megaphone and leaning out the window of his room at Oxford proceeded to regale his fellow undergraduates with a recital of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land. His friend, classmate, and possibly lover, Evelyn Waugh, based his outré homosexual character Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited partly on Acton, mostly on Brian Howard, also a friend, classmate and possibly lover of Acton's. The historian D. J. Taylor noted in passing that Waugh went through a "violent homosexual phase" at Oxford, and that "no other homosexual Bright Young Person was more notorious" than Howard.

After his father's death in 1953 Acton moved into La Pietra with his mother, the former Hortense Mitchell. She was the heiress of a Chicago banking fortune and in 1907 had bought the palatial villa, one of the very grandest in the hills overlooking Florence. A whiff of aristocracy hung in the air around the Actons. First there was Lord Acton, the great historian. Then there was Admiral Sir Ferdinando Acton, sometime prime minister of the Two Sicilies and grandfather of Lord Acton. Harold Acton's father, Arthur, asserted he was born in Naples, that he was also a descendant of the admiral, and that therefore he was a cousin of Lord Acton. Few historians accept this filiation, and the Actons' aristocratic whiff remains just that.

In this congenial setting Acton now produced the books for which he is remembered: his two-volume History of the Bourbons of Naples and his Memoirs of an Aesthete and its sequel. He also entertained on a vast scale. Royalty, the rich and famous, delightful young men on the Grand Tour, all passed through the gates of La Pietra, among them Prince Charles, that constant guest Princess Margaret, and the Sitwells, along with a generous selection of other literati. Once, when Anthony Powell and his wife were dining at La Pietra, Alexander Zielcke, Acton's live-in lover, left the room. "You know, he's not nearly as young as he looks," their host confided to his bemused guests.

Francesco Algarotti 1712–1764

Everyone who met Algarotti, whether male or female, fell in love with him. He was a paragon of beauty and intelligence and delightfully bisexual. Born in Venice of a Paduan mercantile family, he was educated in Rome, Bologna, and Florence.

He was writing a book on Newtonian philosophy when at twenty in Paris he met Voltaire who dubbed him alternately "The Venetian Socrates" and "The Swan of Padua." And when in 1736 the twenty-four-year-old swan swam into London, Lord Hervey and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu both fell in love with him. When he left, Hervey declared, "I shall never forget you," and Lady Mary, intending to pursue him to Venice, wrote, "I am a thousand times more to be pitied than the sad Dido; and I have a thousand more reasons to kill myself." Rictor Norton has described the affair as one of the silliest love-triangles of the eighteenth century.

On his travels he met up with a young man in Milan, apparently related to the seigneurs of Firmacon, with whom he made a leisurely tour of Provence. He returned briefly to London staying first in the Middle Temple with Andrew Mitchell, a young lawyer, and, moving up in the world, with Lord Burlington at Chiswick.

Soon he was off again on Lord Baltimore's yacht to St. Petersburg. On his way back to London he made a stop-over in Berlin and caught the eye of Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia, a sighting that was to prove crucial to his fortunes.

No sooner had he returned to London than he was summoned back to Berlin by Frederick (now king and later "The Great," his "odious" father having died.) "My dear Algarotti," he wrote, "my destiny has changed. I await you impatiently; don't let me languish." Frederick had not sent him travel money and he was forced to borrow it from Lady Mary.

In Berlin he replaced Baron Keyserling as the king's favorite bedmate and at the same time had an affair with the Marquis de Lugeac, a young French attaché at Frederick's court. Voltaire observed them. "When I see the tender Algarotti crush with passionate embrace the handsome Lugeac I see Socrates firmly fastened on the rump of Alcibiades." Perhaps the epigram is wittier in French.

Frederick made him a count and after his death in Italy erected a monument to him in the Campo Santo in Pisa. Success had pursued Algarotti from the very beginning. He had been elected a member of the Royal Society on his arrival in London, and his complete works of criticism and philosophy in eight volumes appeared in his lifetime.

Horatio Alger 1832–1899

Alger's dime novels for boys, inspirational from-rags-to-riches fables including Ragged Dick, Mark the Match Boy, Phil the Fiddler, and Driven from Home. They sold over 200 million copies.

He was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1860, and traveled abroad for a year. He realized early on his sexual preference for males, especially adolescent boys.

But it was not until he was appointed minister of the First Unitarian Church of Brewster in 1866 that trouble occurred. Rumors began to circulate concerning his conduct with boys of the parish. Two thirteen year old boys told their parents that Alger had molested them. He was accused of the "abominable & revolting crime of gross familiarity with boys" and allowed to resign providing he never returned.

He went to New York City where he found his calling: a world of impoverished newsboys, bootblacks, and drifters who needed rescuing. He often stayed at the Newsboys' Lodging Houses. These precursors of YMCAs were established by the Childrens' Aid Society and were the perfect setting for Alger's rescue operations. Here, surrounded by the boys he loved, he devoted the rest of his life to making amends for his early disgrace, and found the material for his phenomenally successful novels, and there were over a hundred of them.

His poem, Friar Anselmo's Sin, seems to be autobiographical.

Friar Anselmo (God's grace may he win!) Committed one sad day a deadly sin ... Thy guilty stains shall be washed white again, By noble service done thy fellow-men.

Allexander and Roberts

Plymouth Colony, 6 August 1637. "John Allexander [and] Thomas Roberts were both examined and found guilty of lude behaviour and uncleane carriage one w[ith] another, by often spendinge their seeds one upon another, which was proved both by witnesse & their own confession; the said Allexander found to have beene formerly notoriously guilty that way, and seeking to allure others thereunto."

Both men confessed to the crime and "the said John Allexander was therefore censured by the Court to be severely whipped, and burnt in the shoulder [with] a hot iron, and to be perpetually banished [from] the government of New Plymouth, and if he be at any tyme found w[ith]in the same, to bee whipped out againe ..."

Roberts, an indentured servant, was "censured to be severely whipt, and to returne to his m[aster] Mr.Atwood, and to serve out his tyme w[ith] him, but to be disabled hereby to enjoy any lands w[ith]in this government, except hee manefest better desert."

Joseph Alsop 1910–1989

Joe Alsop parlayed a privileged background (Groton '28, Harvard '32) and important political connections (first the Roosevelts, later the Kennedys) into a spectacular career as newspaper reporter, syndicated columnist (with his brother Stewart) and finally as a significant Washington host. "It is safe to say," Henry Kissinger remarked, that at the Alsops' table, "more questions of policy were discussed ... than at any summit conference."

Many of his friends suspected Alsop was homosexual, but he kept this side of his personality a secret his whole life. While on reporting trips in this country and abroad he frequently sought out and found like-minded male companions. Sometime in the fifties he was picked up by the police in San Francisco's Castro District. In 1954 he had a sexual encounter with a State Department official in Germany. The Eisenhower administration was fully aware of these sexual activities and the FBI had a dossier with all the details.

In 1957 when in Moscow to interview the Russian leader Nikita Krushchev he invited a young man up to his hotel room. The room had been rigged by the KGB, photographs were taken, and Alsop was blackmailed. He prudently went straight to the American ambassador, his Porcellian Club friend Chip Bohlen, who advised him to notify the CIA. This he did, the blackmail attempt failed, and the matter was hushed up.

In 1961 at the age of fifty he married Susan Mary Jay, the forty-year-old widow of his old college friend William Patten. She was the ideal prospective wife: still in her prime, well-connected, and perfectly equipped to maintain an important salon. On her part she needed a man in her life and a father for her two young children.

He had told her he was homosexual before their marriage. She assumed she could cure him, but naturally was unable to do so. He began drinking heavily and took to abusing her verbally in front of important guests at their famous dinner parties. They divorced in 1972.

It was clear that two Washington hostesses in one household was one Washington hostess too many.

Hans Christian Andersen 1805–1875

Throughout his whole life Andersen was in love: in love with his friend Eduard Collin who was twenty-two: "No one has brought more tears to my eyes, neither has anyone been loved so much by me as you." In love with another young friend, Ludvig Müller: "I miss you so dreadfully.... I am as fond of you as if you were my brother.... I am a strange being, my feelings run off with me too quickly, and I only make myself unhappy. Oh, do come, come my dear Ludvig...." He was also in love with their sisters, perhaps to bring him closer to their brothers.

He did not draw a line between friendship and sexuality; and as these love affairs may never have been consummated, his life was one of constant frustration. "My soul is so full of love ... my pain is crushing me when I suffer."

As a boy he did not play with other boys, but delighted in making clothes for his dolls. As a youth he was effeminate and innocent, an innocence that stayed with him into his twenties and never left him. As a man he lived a life of secrecy, repression, and half-truths.

His friend Søren Kierkegaard observed early on—when he was twenty-four and Andersen thirty-two—that Andersen's work "should be compared with those flowers which have male and female placed on the same stem." Only in fairy tales could he express himself completely. It was a medium whose formal distance from reality allowed him to write as he felt: as the social outsider, as the forbidden lover.

Later in life when he became famous he traveled and met Dickens, Browning, Schumann, German Grand Dukes and European royalty. He witnessed the whirling dervishes of Pera. The throbbing male dancers who seemed to whirl themselves to death, groaning and dripping with sweat and sinking down into "obscene positions" sent him into ecstasies. The swiftly gliding gondoliers excited him too, with their powerful naked arms emerging from their wide gauze-like sleeves. "Feeling sensual," he wrote, "an Asiatic sensuality is torturing me here. Oh, how I'm burning with longing!"

It was with this passion, his biographer Jackie Wullschlager noted, that he wrote The Ice Maiden, The Little Mermaid, The Red Shoes, and The Ugly Duckling, a passion the reader senses today. The Little Mermaid, for instance, can be read as an expression of his sexual longings, his sexual anguish. It is a tale of social exclusion, undisclosed desire, and wrong feelings below the waist. Writing his stories, Kierkegaard said, was less an expression of self than an amputation.

Henry Paget, 5th Marquess of Anglesey 1875–1905

Known for his seductive dances performed en travesti, the "prancing marquess" used to parade along Piccadilly and the boulevards of Paris at the turn of the century rouged, powdered, perfumed with eau d'Espagne, and cradling an equally fragrant poodle festooned with pink ribbons. His wife discovered his sexual proclivities on their honeymoon and had their marriage annulled soon after.

Notwithstanding the fact that his yearly income was £110,000, he accumulated debts of over a half million pounds and was forced into bankruptcy. His personal effects, which were sold to pay off the creditors, realized £88,000. They included a "preposterous accumulation" of clothes and jewelry, mostly women's. He died the next year in Montecarlo shortly after his thirtieth birthday.

His colorful history has engaged the attention of many, including H. Montgomery Hyde (The Other Love, 1970) and Graham Robb (Strangers, 2003).

Louis Aragon 1897–1982

This French polymath was a poet: Feu de joie (1919), Le Crève Coeur (1941), and over twenty other titles. He was a novelist and short story writer: Les cloches de Bâle (1934), Les beaux quartiers (1936), and over a dozen other books. He was a journalist, writing for the Communist Party's newspaper, L'Humanité, from 1933 on, and for Commune, a journal which sought to organize writers in opposing fascism. (1937). The same year the French Communist Party called on him to edit its new evening newspaper, Ce soir, which was outlawed in 1939.

As the publisher of Editeurs francais réunis, a combination of two Resistance publishing houses, he brought out in the 1950s social realist novels by French and Russian authors. The collection Petite sirène presented poems by Neruda and, among others, Jean Ristat, who was at his bedside when he died.

He was one of the original Dadaists (1919–1924); and a founder with André Breton of the Surrealist Movement in 1924, all before he received his Communist Party card in 1927. He was mobilized in 1939 at the outbreak of the war, and became a war hero and the recipient of the Croix de Guerre. He was a lifelong political activist.

Aragon married Elsa Triolet in 1930. They worked together in anti-fascist causes, supported the Spanish republicans, and on the defeat of France in 1939 went underground for the duration. He did not come out sexually until after her death in 1970, in plenty of time for him to join Paris's first Gay Pride march in 1977. Aragon was now eighty, and must have made a noticeable impression riding in an open pink convertible, a favorite scene on internet blogs.

A poet to the end,Aragon romanticized those gay rendezvous—the baths of Paris. The nineteenth century baths in the Passage de l'Opera he could only imagine, but others, operating to this day—the Bains d' Odessa and the Hammam de la Mosquée—he could visit himself. He sang their praises in Paris Peasant: "The baths are the ideal site for physical relationships, even for a real love affair. Unlikely as this seems, the idea fires my imagination. Love at first sight in a bathhouse! Laugh if you will, but unless you've experienced it, you don't know what you're laughing at."


Excerpted from HIDDEN by CLINTON ELLIOTT. Copyright © 2013 Clinton Elliott. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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