MACHIAVELLI HOMOSEXUAL

Investigating the sexuality of great personalities of the past is not always easy, for some the documentation deriving from private correspondence is very limited but explicit, as in the case of Torquato Tasso, for others, who have left a considerable amount of private correspondence, the documentation is sometimes really encrypted and difficult to interpret, as in the case of Niccolò Machiavelli.
Reading the private correspondence between Machiavelli and Francesco Vettori, ambassador of the Florentine Republic to the Papal Court, we are often perplexed, because we reach the end of a letter with the clear impression of not having understood exactly the meaning that is hidden behind the words.
Machiavelli was a person of considerable political importance and the letters he sent, even the private ones, were subject to some form of encryption in order to make them difficult to interpret for anyone who did not possess the right keys to read. The discourses contained in particular in the private correspondence with Vettori, sometimes apparently vague and incomprehensible, are actually full of implications and metaphors that can be deciphered correctly only if one is very familiar with that form of correspondence.
So let’s get into the subject.
Machiavelli was born in Florence on May 3th, 1469.
On May 23th, 1498, when Machiavelli had just turned 29, Fra Girolamo Savonarola was hanged and burned in Piazza della Signoria. Between mid-June and mid-July Machiavelli was elected secretary of the Second Chancellery and also became secretary of the Council of Ten that was responsible for the policy of territorial expansion of Florence and for the affairs of war. In 1501, at age 32, a decidedly mature age for the time, Machiavelli married Marietta Corsini, with whom he had 7 children. It could be argued that there is no more convincing proof of Niccolò’s exclusive heterosexuality, however, many years later, Francesco Vettori, writing to an almost 54-year-old Machiavelli, on April 17th, 1523, will say: “we sometimes accuse the nature itself as a stepmother when, instead, we should accuse our parents and ourselves: if you had truly known yourself, you would never have taken a wife; and my father, if he had known my desires and habits, would never have joined me to a wife, as one who nature had generated for play and for fun, not eager to make money and in the least worried about his wealth. But a wife would have forced me to change, which, however, cannot be accomplished happily for anyone.”[1]
Vettori’s speech seems to allude more to heterosexual adventures, both of Machiavelli and Vettori, both very free in sexual behavior, rather than to homosexuality, but, as we will see, Machiavelli certainly did not disdain even homosexual adventures and probably a similar discourse could also be done for Vettori.
That Machiavelli was not only a married heterosexual, who limited himself only to sexual intercourses with his wife but that he went to look for sex for “foia”, that is for lust, even with very low-level female prostitutes is evidenced by his letter of December 8th 1509, when Machiavelli was 40, to Luigi Giucciardini (brother of the historian Francesco Guicciardini). In fact, Machiavelli tells Guicciardini that he had gone through an irrepressible craving of sex (affogaggine) with a very ugly woman, an authentic monster, only because there was just a bit of light that didn’t allow to see her clearly, but then, taken an ember from the fire he lit up the lamp, he saw how ugly she was and felt a very strong sense of rejection. [2]
On May 27th, 1510, an anonymous connoisseur put in a hole of anonymous denunciations this denunciation: “I notify to you, Eight gentlemen (police authority), that Niccolò of Messer Bernardo Machiavelli fucks Lucretia colled “la Riccia” (“The woman with curly hair”) in the ass”. [3]
Machiavelli was therefore accused of sodomy with that prostitute named Lucrezia called la Riccia (“The woman with curly hair”). The accusation is about sodomy but with a woman, the vox populi (popular rumor) who tries to discredit Machiavelli, a politically important man, married and with several children, does not therefore contain any reference to homosexuality, which would have been, on the other hand, not very credible.
The political fortunes of Machiavelli are linked to the Florentine Republic and to the pro-popular conceptions of Pier Soderini, perpetual gonfalonier. On September 16th, 1512, after the escape of Soderini, the Medici resumed control of Florence and the fate of Machiavelli precipitated. On November 7th he was deposed from his offices, on November 10th he sentenced to a year of confinement within the Florentine territory. Suspected of having favored the conspiracy of Agostino Capponi and Pietropaolo Boscoli to restore the Republic, on February 12th, 1513, he was arrested and put to the rope torture.
Machiavelli quickly tries to mobilize his powerful friends and gets results. While Capponi and Boscoli are put to death, Machiavelli is condemned to pay a large deposit, which he is not able to pay, but still comes out of prison in a short time because on March 11th, 1513, Giovanni de’ Medici, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, already created cardinal at the age of 13, becomes Pope Leo X. Leo X’s election is followed in Florence by the general amnesty and Machiavelli, released from prison, takes the prudent decision to disappear from Florence and retire to the farm of the Albergaccio, in Sant’Andrea in Percussina. Machavelli was then 44 years old.
On December 19th, 1513, Machiavelli wrote to Vettori a letter, cryptic in the first part but very interesting in the second, from our point of view. Let us limit ourselves to the analysis of the second part, which also suggests a reason for the so encrypted first part.
Machiavelli remembers that Vettori had written four verses about a certain Riccio (“a guy with curly hair”), a guy available to homosexual contacts, also indicating the names of those who had been put “in berta” (had been ridiculed) because they had gone with Riccio. Machiavelli recited those verses from memory to Giovanni Machiavelli, thus accusing him of homosexual activities. Giovanni Machiavelli took it badly and tried to insist, saying “that he does not know where you have found that he touches (touching means having homosexual relationships in the cryptic jargon of Florentine homosexuals)”. Vettori had not accused Giovanni Machiavelli of homosexuality, but it was Niccolò who, by changing the names, had given the impression that instead he had done so. Giovanni Machiavelli wants to give and ask for explanations and Niccolò laughs at the insult he has made. It should be noted that the verb “to touch” is fundamental because, as we shall see, it is necessary to correctly interpret a discourse that Machiavelli makes about himself. [4]
In the same letter Machiavelli mentions a Franciscan friar who makes politics preaching and throws words of fire from the pulpit. Machiavelli writes, not without pungent irony: “These things shocked me yesterday so that I had to go this morning to be with the Riccia, and I did not go there; but I do not know, if I had had to be with the Riccio, if the effect of the words of the friar would have been the same. I didn’t hear the preaching because I’m not used to such things, but I heard it repeated like this from all Florence. [5]
On January 5th, 1514 Machiavelli wrote a very interesting letter to Vettori.[6] He begins by observing that men are blind in the things in which they sin as they are bitter persecutors of the vices they do not have.
So, then, Machiavelli wrote to Vettori that had shown him that he was worried about the fact that having hosted in his house ser Sano, a well-known homosexual, could discredit him through the gossip of Filippo Casavecchia, and explains to Vettori that Filippo Casavecchia, another well-known homosexual and friend of Machiavelli, would never have criticized Vettori even if ser Sano had remained at his house from one jubilee to another, and indeed he would have congratulated Vettori for the choice. And the Brancaccio then, another well-known homosexual friend of Machiavelli, wouldn’t have dared to comment even if Vettori had taken home the whole brothel of Valencia, indeed he would have considered him a great man more for this than if he had seen him talk better than Demosthenes before the Pope.
Filippo Casavecchia would have thought it unseemly that Vettori would bring easy guys home, but not someone like Ser Sano who was prudent and Brancaccio would not like to see Vettori in the company of cheap whores. However, if Vettori had followed their advice, removing Ser Sano and the easy women, Casavecchia would have wondered where Ser Sano had gone and would have done everything to get him back. Machiavelli adds, to make things even clearer, a discourse that sounds more or less like this: if I had happened in Vettori’s house when he had chased away Sano and the easy women from his house, “I, who am running next to both guys and girls [7] would have said “Dear Ambassador, you will get sick because it does not seem that you take any fun, here there are no guys and there are no women, what the “cock”-house is this?”
On February 25th 1514, Machiavelli wrote to Vettori a very interesting letter [8], I quote the full text in a note and transcribe some parts here, simplifying the descriptions of the places, very detailed in the text, and trying to report the real meaning in a language more understandable at first reading. “I received your letter the other week and I waited until now to answer you because I wanted to have clearer information about a fact that I will tell you below and then I can respond appropriately to your letter. A kind thing happened, or to call it by its real name a ridiculous metamorphosis, which would be worthy of being noted in the books of the ancients. And since I do not want anyone to complain about me, I’ll tell you it hidden under allegorical forms.”
Machiavelli, in the introduction, then tries to tickle the curiosity of Vettori and is preparing to tell the story in the manner of Boccaccio’s novels.
Giuliano Brancacci, eager, so to speak, to go to the bush [which means to go in search of homosexual contacts], one evening a few days ago, after the Ave Maria, seeing that the weather was overcast and windy and that it was beginning to drizzle (all things that you can well believe that every bird [obscene allusion to homosexuals] waits), back home, put on a pair of big shoes [like those used to hunt], tied the game bag to the belt, took with him a lantern and the tools to hunt the birds, and went away for a while snaking through the alleys that lead to the center of the city, and not finding birds waiting for him, he went to the parts of the goldsmith that you know, he went a little further and, looking very carefully at the places where the birds used to hide, he found a beautiful young thrush and caught him using his tools to capture birds and took him to the bottom of the ravine, under the cave where Panzano used to stay.
He then stayed with the young thrush and, finding that he had the “vein” wide (obscene allusion to the ass), after having kissed it several times, he re-stuck two feathers of his tail and put it in his back bag.” [The Italian text is very ambiguous and clearly allusive to an anal intercourse: “Si intrattenne quindi col giovane tordo e, trovando che aveva la “vena” larga, dopo avergliela baciata più volte, gli riacconciò due penne della coda e lo mise nel carniere di dietro.”]
So far the metaphor, then Machiavelli continues more or less like this [even here I render the text more comprehensible]:
“Since I cannot lengthen the subject too much, I will proceed in clear and go bevenayond the metaphors. Brancaccio, who had found the thrush, wanted to know who he was and asked him and the boy replied that he was Michele, nephew of Consiglio Costi. Then Brancaccio said to him: “You are the son of a good man, and if you can do it, you have found your way.” So the Brancaccio [feeling that he could ran the risk of being involved in dangerous affairs] told the boy [lying] that he was Filippo Casavecchia [9] and he also told him where he had his shop [that of Casavecchia, of course]. Since I have no money with me now, come or send someone directly to the shop tomorrow morning and I will pay you.
The next morning, the boy, who was more lascivious than stupid, sent another to Filippo Casavecchia with a slip of paper, asking him to pay his debt and reminded him of what he had promised. Filippo read the note and made a sad face and replied: Who is he and what does he want from me? I have nothing to do with him, tell him to come to me. The boy who had brought the note came back to Michele, who had sent him and told him about Filippo Casavecchia’s answer. The boy did not even get a little scared and went to Casavecchia, reminded him of the benefits he enjoyed and concluded that if the man thought he could deceive him that way, he would have no problem to publicly blame him.
After that answer Filippo felt himself squeezed, let the boy in the shop and said: – Michele, you have been cheated, [but not by me!] I am a very moderate man and I don’t care such squalid things, so you have to think rather to find who deceived you, so that who has received pleasure from you pay the due to you, rather than to insult me in this way without you get any advantage. Now go back home and come tomorrow to me and I’ll tell you what I’ve come up with. –
The boy went away all confused and accepted the idea of returning the next day to Casavecchia. Casavecchia, left alone, was very worried about the fact and did not seem to be able to get out easily and felt as agitated as the sea in front of Pisa when the Libeccio  [a warm southwest wind] blows strongly. He said to himself: – If I’m good and quiet and I keep Michele good with a florin, I end up being blackmailed by him, I recognize myself his debtor, I confess the sin and from innocent I became guilty, but if I deny without finding the true guilty I could be compared with the boy, I should justify myself with him and also with others and the wrong would be all on my side. If I try to understand how things really went, however, I should still blame someone, I might not be able to blame anyone, I would make enemies and with all this I would not come out clean anyway of all this. –
While he was so anguished, he chose the last hypothesis as less unpleasant and was so fortunate that he addressed the first idea that came to his mind to the right target! And he thought that it was Brancaccio who had made him that bad joke, because Brancaccio was one who hunted for boys (“macchiaiuolo”, he gave himself to the bush, in the double sense of the word) and other times he had deceived him.
He then went to see Alberto Lotti, told him the fact, told him also what he had in mind and asked him to speak reservedly with Michele, who was one of his relatives, to see if other matches could be found. Lotti, who was used to those things and knew them very well, immediately thought that Casavecchia had seen right and promised that he would do everything possible, then sent to call Michele and after talking to him for a long time, he came to this conclusion. He said to the boy: If you heard the one who pretended to be Filippo Casavecchia, would you have the courage to recognize him by his voice? – The boy answered yes and Lotti took him to sant’Ilario where he knew that Brancaccio often entertained, saw the Brancaccio who sat among so many people telling stories, and shrewdly had the boy approached behind Brancaccio in such a way that he heard him speak, then they appeared before him and Brancaccio saw them, changed his attitude quickly and went away and everything was clear to everyone. Filippo Casavecchia came out completely clean and Brancaccio was covered with insults. And in Florence in this last carnival nothing else has been talked about, except: – Are you the Brancaccio or the Casa{vecchia}? – And this story was very well known to anyone. I think you already had news of it but I wanted to tell you the same in detail, because it seemed my duty.
As for you, I can only tell you to follow the love at loose bridles because the pleasure you can take today you cannot take it tomorrow, and if the things are as you have described them, I envy you more than the king of England! I beg you to follow your own inclination and do not let anything escape for any reason, because I believe, believed and always will believe really true what Boccaccio says: that is better to do and repent, than not to do and repent! “
So far, as we have seen, Machiavelli makes homosexuality a theme for spicy stories in the manner of Boccaccio, also hints at his “touching” that is at the fact that he does not disdain homosexual activities, but so far lacks the emotional dimension of homosexuality. Machiavelli is now 45 years old, has a wife and seven grown-up children and still behaves like a young man who goes into a cheerful brigade hunting for adventures.
However, a letter to the Vettori of August 3th, 1514 [10] shows that Machiavelli also felt the affective side of homosexuality. He congratulates Vettori for his romantic adventures in Rome and tells him that he (Machiavelli) has found correspondence “in a creature so kind, so delicate, so noble, both by nature and by accident, that I could neither praise nor love her so much that she could not deserve more.” The pronouns are used to the feminine because they agree with the term creature that is of female gender, this does not however have to deceive on the sex of that creature. 
Machiavelli adds: “And do not believe that Love to take me used ordinary ways, but knowing that they would not have been enough, he followed extraordinary ways, from which I didn’t know, and didn’t want to beware. It is enough that, already close to fifty years, neither these suns offend me, nor the harsh streets crush me, nor the obscurities of the nights amaze me. Everything seems easy to me, and I adapt myself to every appetite, also different and contrary to what should be mine. And although I seem to have entered great labor, nevertheless I feel so much sweetness in it, for what his so rare and suave appearance produces in me, and also because it puts aside the memory of all my troubles, so that if I was able to free me, I would not.”
We do not know who the “creature” is so kind, so delicate, so noble, but certainly it is the first time that Machiavelli does not use the tones of the Boccaccio satire but those of love.
If there is still any doubt that it is a homosexual love, it will be easily dispelled by a letter from Vettori to Machiavelli dated January 16th, 1515 [11]. Vettori writes to Machiavelli:
“Dear main man. I have no letters from anyone that I read more willingly than yours, and I would like to be able to write many things, which I know cannot be entrust to the letters. It’s been several months since I understood very well how you loved, and I was to say, “Ah, Coridon, Coridon, quae te dementia cepit?” [Coridon, Coridon, what madness took you?] Then, thinking within myself that this world is nothing but love, or, to tell it more clearly, lust, I held back; and I have been considering how much in such things men have their hearts far from what they say with their mouths.”
The Latin quote is taken from the second Eclogue by Virgil (Bucolics II, 69). “Ahi, Corydon Corydon, What madness took you?” Corydon’s Madness was the love of the beautiful Alexis. Corydon was already in the times of Virgil one of the most known myths related to homosexuality and certainly Vettori was well aware of that when he quoted Corydon and the second Bucolic in relation to Machiavelli. Corydon assumed such a symbolic value that André Gide (a character to whom I will soon dedicate an article) called “Corydon” a dialogue published in 1924 which contains a first attempt to demolish the respectability that condemned homosexuality. Gide writes in Corydon: “The important thing is to understand that, where you say against nature, it would be enough to say: against costume”. After the publication of Gide’s Corydon, Paul Claudel, a Catholic intellectual, stopped speaking to Gide. Current Catholic homophobia has distant roots.
________________________
[1] nos aliquando naturam ipsam tamquam novercam incusamus, cum potius parentes aut nos ipsos incusare debemus: tu, si te ipsum bene novisses, numquam uxorem duxisses; pater meus, si ingenium, si mores meos scisset, me numquam uxori alligasset, quippe quem ad ludos, ad iocos natura genuerat, lucris non inhiantem, rei familiari minime intentum. Sed uxor filie me mutare coegerit, quod nemimi feliciter succedere potest.– Niccolò Machiavelli, Tutte le opere a cura di Mario Martelli, Sansoni Editore, Firenze 1971 
 
[2] Niccolò Machiavelli a Luigi Guicciardini
Verona, 8 dicembre 1509
Spectabili viro Luigi Guicciardini in Mantova tanquam fratri carissimo.
Affogaggine, Luigi; et guarda quanto la Fortuna in una medesima faccienda dà ad li huomini diversi fini. Voi, fottuto che voi havesti colei, vi è venuta voglia di rifotterla et ne volete un’altra presa; ma io, stato fui qua parechi dì, accecando per carestia di matrimonio, trovai una vechia che m’imbucatava le camicie, che sta in una casa che è più di meza sotterra, né vi si vede lume se non per l’uscio. Et, passando io un dì di quivi, la mi riconobbe et, fattomi una gran festa, mi disse che io fussi contento andare un poco in casa, che mi voleva mostrare certe camicie belle, se io le volevo comperare. Onde io, nuovo cazo, me lo credetti, et, giunto là, vidi al barlume una donna con uno sciugatoio tra in sul capo et in sul viso, che faceva el vergognoso, et stava rimessa in uno canto. Questa vechia ribalda mi prese per mano et, menatomi ad colei, dixe: Questa è la camicia che io vi voglio vendere, ma voglio la proviate prima et poi la pagherete.
Io, come peritoso che io sono, mi sbigotti’ tucto; pure, rimasto solo con colei et al buio (perché la vechia si uscì sùbito di casa et serrò l’uscio), per abbreviare, la fotte’ un colpo; et benché io le trovassi le coscie vize et la fica umida et che le putissi un poco el fiato, nondimeno, tanta era la disperata foia che io havevo, che la n’andò. Et facto che io l’hebbi, venendomi pure voglia di vedere questa mercatantia, tolsi un tizone di fuoco d’un focolare che v’era et accesi una lucerna che vi era sopra; né prima el lume fu apreso, che ’l lume fu per cascarmi di mano. Omè! fu’ per cadere in terra morto, tanta era bructa quella femina. E’ se le vedeva prima un ciuffo di capelli fra bianchi et neri, cioè canuticci, et benché l’avessi el cocuzolo del capo calvo, per la cui calvitie ad lo scoperto si vedeva passeggiare qualche pidochio, nondimeno e pochi capelli et rari le aggiugnevono con le barbe loro infino in su le ciglia; et nel mezo della testa piccola et grinzosa haveva una margine di fuoco, che la pareva bollata ad la colonna di Mercato; in ogni puncta delle ciglia di verso li ochi haveva un mazetto di peli pieni di lendini; li ochi haveva uno basso et uno alto, et uno era maggiore che l’altro, piene le lagrimatoie di cispa et e nipitelli dipillicciati; il naso li era conficto sotto la testa arricciato in su, et l’una delle nari tagliata, piene di mocci; la bocca somigliava quella di Lorenzo de’ Medici, ma era torta da uno lato et da quello n’usciva un poco di bava, ché, per non havere denti, non poteva ritenere la sciliva; nel labbro di sopra haveva la barba lunghetta, ma rara; el mento haveva lungo aguzato et torto un poco in su, dal quale pendeva un poco di pelle che le adgiugneva infino ad la facella della gola. Stando adtonito ad mirare questo mostro, tucto smarrito, di che lei accortasi volle dire: — Che havete voi messere? —; ma non lo dixe perché era scilinguata; et come prima aperse la bocca, n’uscì un fiato sì puzolente, che trovandosi offesi da questa peste due porte di dua sdegnosissimi sensi, li ochi et il naso, e’ m’andò tale sdegno ad lo stomaco per non potere sopportare tale offesa, tucto si commosse et commosso operò sì, che io le rece’ addosso. Et così, pagata di quella moneta che la meritava, ne parti’. Et per quel cielo che io darò, io non credo, mentre starò in Lombardia, mi torni la foia; et però voi ringratiate Iddio della speranza havete di rihavere tanto dilecto, et io lo ringratio che ho perduto el timore di havere mai più tanto dispiacere.
Io credo che mi avanzerà di questa gita qualche danaio, et vorre’ pure, giunto ad Firenze, fare qualche trafficuzo. Ho disegnato fare un pollaiolo; bisognami trovare uno maruffino che me lo governi. Intendo che Piero di Martino è così sufficiente; vorrei intendessi da lui se ci ha el capo, et rispondetemi; perché, quando e’ non voglia, io mi procaccierò d’uno altro.
De le nuove di qua ve ne satisfarà Giovanni. Salutate Jacopo et raccomandatemi ad lui, et non sdimenticate Marco.
In Verona, die viii Decembris 1509.
Aspecto la risposta di Gualtieri ad la mia cantafavola.
Niccolò Machiavegli
http://www.classicitaliani.it/machiav/p … s.html#170 Niccolò Machiavelli, Tutte le opere, a cura di Mario Martelli, Sansoni editore, Firenze 1971.
 

[3] “Notifichasi a voi, signori Otto, chome Nicholò di messer Bernardo Machiavelli fotte la Lucretia vochata la Riccia nel culo.”

[4] Quelli quattro versi che voi scrivete del Riccio, nel principio della lettera di Donato, noi li dicemmo a mente a Giovanni Machiavelli; e in cambio del Machiavello e del Pera vi annestammo Giovanni Machiavelli. Lui ne ha fatto un capo come una cesta; e dice che non sa dove voi avete trovato che tocchi, e che ve ne vuole scrivere in ogni modo; e per un tratto Filippo e io ne avemmo un piacere grande.

[5] http://digilander.libero.it/il_machiave … ttere.html Edizione di riferimento: “Tutte le opere storiche e letterarie di Niccolò Machiavelli”, a cura di Guido Mazzoni e Mario Casella, G. Berbera Editore, Firenze, 1929.
“Queste cose mi sbigottirono ieri in modo, che io aveva andare questa mattina a starmi con la Riccia, e non vi andai; ma io non so già, se io avessi auto a starmi con il Riccio, se io avessi guardato a quello. La predica io non la udi’, perché io non uso simili pratiche, ma la ho sentita recitare così da tutto Firenze.”

[6] Niccolò Machiavelli, Tutte le opere a cura di Mario Martelli, Sansoni Editore, Firenze 1971.
Niccolò Machiavelli a Francesco Vettori
Firenze, 5 gennaio 1514

Magnifico oratori florentino Francisco Victorio benefattori suo observandissimo.
Magnifico oratore. Egli è per certo gran cosa a considerare quanto gli huomini sieno ciechi nelle cose dove e’ peccono, et quanto e’ sieno acerrimi persecutori de’ vizii che non hanno. Io vi potrei addurre in exemplis cose greche, latine, hebraiche, caldee, et andarmene sino ne’ paesi del Sophi et dei Prete Janni, et addurreve’li, se li exempli domestichi et freschi non bastassino. Io credo che ser Sano sarebbe possuto venirvi in casa dall’un giubbileo all’altro, et che mai Filippo harebbe pensato che vi desse carico alcuno; anzi gli sarebbe parso che voi dipigneste ad usar seco, et che la fosse proprio pratica conforme ad uno ambasciadore, il quale, essendo obbligato ad infinite contenenze, è necessario habbia de’ diporti et delli spassi; et questo di ser Sano gli sarebbe parso che quadrasse appunto, et con ciascuno harebbe laudato la prudenza vostra, et commendatovi insino al cielo di tale electione. Dall’altro canto, io credo che se tutto il bordello di Valenza vi fosse corso per casa, non sarebbe stato mai possibile che il Brancaccio ve ne havesse ripreso, anzi vi harebbe di questo più commendato che se vi havesse sentito innanzi al papa orare meglio che Demosthene.
Et se voi havessi voluto vedere la ripruova di questa ragione, vi bisognava, senza che loro havessino saputo delli ammonimenti l’uno dell’altro, che voi havessi fatto vista di credere loro, et volere observare i loro precepti. Et serrato l’uscio alle puttane, et cacciato via ser Sano, et ritiratovi al grave, et stato sopra di voi cogitativo, e’ non sarebbono a verun modo passati quattro dì, che Filippo harebbe cominciato a dire: Che è di ser Sano? Che vuol dire che non ci capita più? Egli è male che non ci venga; a me pare egli uno huomo dabbene: io non so quel che queste brigate si cicalano, et parmi che egli habbia molto bene i termini di questa corte, et che sia una utile bazzicatura. Voi doverreste, ambasciadore, mandare per lui. Il Brancaccio non vi dico se si sarebbe doluto et maravigliato della absenzia delle dame, et se non ve lo havessi detto, mentre che egli havessi tenuto vòlto il culo al fuoco, come harebbe fatto Filippo, e’ ve lo harebbe detto in camera da voi a lui. Et per chiarirvi meglio, bisognava che in tal vostra disposizione austera io fussi capitato costì, che tocco et attendo a femmine: subito avvedutomi della cosa, io harei detto: Ambasciadore, voi ammalerete; e’ non mi pare che voi pigliate spasso alcuno; qui non ci è garzoni, qui non sono femmine; che casa di cazzo è questa?
Magnifico oratore, e’ non ci è se non pazzi; et pochi ci sono che conoschino questo mondo, et che sappino che chi vuol fare a modo d’altri non fa mai nulla, perché non si truova huomo che sia di un medeximo parere. Cotestoro non sanno che chi è tenuto savio il dì, non sarà mai tenuto pazzo la notte; et che chi è stimato huomo da bene, et che vaglia, ciò che e’ fa per allargare l’animo et vivere lieto, gli arreca honore et non carico, et in cambio di essere chiamato buggerone o puttaniere, si dice che è universale, alla mano et buon compagno. Non sanno anche che dà del suo, et non piglia di quel d’altri, et che fa come il mosto mentre bolle, che dà del sapore suo a’ vasi che sanno di muffa, et non piglia della muffa de’ vasi.
Pertanto, signore oratore, non habbiate paura della muffa di ser Sano, né de’ fracidumi di mona Smeria, et seguite gli instituti vostri, et lasciate dire il Brancaccio, che non si avvede che egli è come un di quelli forasiepi, che è il primo a schiamazzare et gridare, et poi, come giugno la civetta, è il primo preso. Et Filippo nostro è come uno avvoltoio, che quando non è carogne in paese, vola cento miglia per trovarne una; et come egli ha piena la gorga, si sta su un pino et ridesi delle aquile, astori, falconi et simili, che per pascersi di cibi delicati si muoiono la metà dell’anno di fame. Sì che, magnifico oratore, lasciate schiamazzare l’uno, et l’altro empiersi il gozzo, et voi attendete alle faccende vostre a vostro modo.
In Firenze, addì 5 di gennaio 1513.
Niccolò Machiavelli

[7] “tocco et attendo a femmine”. 
To touch is a specific verb that indicates homosexual activities. “Tocco” and “attend” are not synonymous and we have already seen a clear example of this in the letter previously examined.

[8] Niccolò Machiavelli a Francesco Vettori
Firenze, 25 febbraio 1514
Magnifico oratori florentino Francisco Vettorio apud S. Pontificem suo observandissimo. Rome.
Magnifico oratore. Io hebbi una vostra lettera dell’altra settimana, et sono indugiatomi ad hora a farvi risposta, perché io desideravo intendere meglio il vero di una novella che io vi scriverrò qui dappiè: poi risponderò alle parti della vostra convenientemente. Egli è accaduto una cosa gentile, o vero, a chiamarla per il suo diritto nome, una metamorfosi ridicola, et degna di esser notata nelle antiche carte. Et perché io non voglio che persona si possa dolere di me, ve la narrerò sotto parabole ascose.
Giuliano Brancacci, verbigrazia, vago di andare alla macchia, una sera in fra l’altre ne’ passati giorni, sonata l’Ave Maria della sera, veggendo il tempo tinto, trarre vento, et piovegginare un poco (tutti segni da credere che ogni uccello aspetti), tornato a casa, si cacciò in piedi un paio di scarpette grosse, cinsesi un carnaiuolo [cerniere], tolse un frugnuolo [lanterna da caccia], una campanella al braccio, et una buona ramata [strumento per la caccia agli uccelli]. Passò il ponte alla Carraia, et per la via del Canto de’ Mozzi ne venne a Santa Trinita, et entrato in Borgo Santo Appostolo, andò un pezzo serpeggiando per quei chiasci che lo mettono in mezzo; et non trovando uccelli che lo aspettassino, si volse dal vostro battiloro, et sotto la Parte Guelfa attraversò Mercato, et per Calimala Francesca si ridusse sotto il Tetto de’ Pisani; dove guardando tritamente tutti quei ripostigli, trovò un tordellino, il quale con la ramata, con il lume, et con la campanella fu fermo da lui, et con arte fu condotto da lui nel fondo del burrone sotto la spelonca, dove alloggiava il Panzano, et quello intrattenendo et trovatogli la vena larga et più volte baciatogliene, gli risquittì [riacconciare le penne agli uccelli] dua penne della coda et infine, secondo che gli più dicono, se lo messe nel carnaiuolo di drieto.
Ma perché il temporale mi sforza a sbucare di sotto coverta, et le parabole non bastano, et questa metaphora più non mi serve, volle intendere il Brancaccio chi costui fosse, il quale gli disse, verbigrazia, essere Michele, nipote di Consiglio Costi. Disse allhora il Brancaccio: — Sia col buono anno, tu sei figliuolo di uno huomo dabbene, et se tu sarai savio, tu hai trovata la ventura tua. Sappi che io sono Filippo da Casavecchia, et fo bottega nel tal lato; et perché io non ho danari meco, o tu vieni, o tu mandi domattina a bottega, et io ti satisfarò. — Venuta la mattina, Michele, che era più presto cattivo che dappoco, mandò un zana a Filippo con una poliza richiedendoli il debito, et ricordandoli l’obbligo; al quale Filippo fece un tristo viso, dicendo: — Chi è costui, o che vuole? io non ho che fare seco; digli che venga a me. — Donde che, ritornato il zana a Michele, et narratogli la cosa, non si sbigottì di niente il fanciullo, ma animosamente andato a trovare Filippo, gli rimproverò i benefici ricevuti, et li concluse che se lui non haveva rispetto ad ingannarlo, egli non harebbe rispetto a vituperarlo; tale che parendo a Filippo essere impacciato, lo tirò drento in bottega, et li disse: — Michele, tu sei stato ingannato; io sono un huomo molto costumato, et non attendo a queste tristizie; sì che egli è meglio pensare come e’ si habbi a ritrovare questo inganno, et che chi ha ricevuto piacere da te, ti ristori, che entrare per questa via, et senza tuo utile vituperare me. Però farai a mio modo; andra’tene a casa, et torna domani a me, et io ti dirò quello a che harò pensato. — Partissi il fanciullo tutto confuso; pure, havendo a ritornare, restò paziente. Et rimasto Filippo solo, era angustiato dalla novità della cosa, et scarso di partiti, fluctuava come il mare di Pisa quando una libecciata gli soffia nel forame. Perché e’ diceva: Se io mi sto cheto, et contento Michele con un fiorino, io divento una sua vignuola, fummi suo debitore, confesso il peccato, et di innocente divento reo: se io niego senza trovare il vero della cosa, io ho a stare al paragone di un fanciullo, hommi a giustificare seco, ho a giustificare gli altri; tutti i torti fieno i mia. Se io cerco di trovarne il vero, io ne ho a dare carico a qualcuno, potrei non ivi apporre, farò questa inimicizia, et con tutto questo non sarò giustificato.
Et stando in questa ansietà, per manco tristo partito prese l’ultimo; et fugli in tanto favorevole la fortuna, che la prima mira che pose, la pose al vero brocco, et pensò che il Brancaccio gli havesse fatto questa villania, pensando che egli era macchiaiuolo, et che altre volte gli haveva fatto delle natte quando lo botò a’ Servi. Et andò in su questo a trovare Alberto Lotti, verbigrazia, et narratoli il caso, et dectoli l’oppenione sua, et pregatolo havesse a sé Michele, che era suo parente, vedesse se poteva riscontrare questa cosa. Giudicò Alberto, come pratico et intendente, che Filippo havesse buono occhio, et promessoli la sua opera francamente, mandò per Michele, et abburattatolo un pezzo, li venne a questa conclusione: — Darebbet’egli il cuore, se tu sentissi favellare costui che ha detto di essere Filippo, di riconoscerlo alla boce? — A che il fanciullo replicato di sì, lo menò seco in Santo Hilario, dove e’ sapeva il Brancaccio si riparava, et facendogli spalle, havendo veduto il Brancaccio che si sedeva fra un monte di brigate a dir novelle, fece che il fanciullo se gli accostò tanto, che l’udì parlare; et girandosegli intorno, veggendolo il Brancaccio, tutto cambiato se li levò dinanzi; donde a ciascuno la cosa parse chiara, di modo che Filippo è rimaso tutto scarico, et il Brancaccio vituperato. Et in Firenze in questo carnasciale non si è detto altro, se non: — Se’ tu il Brancaccio, o se’ il Casa? —; « et fuit in toto notissima fabula coelo ». Io credo che habbiate hauto per altre mani questo avviso, pure io ve l’ho voluto dire più particulare, perché mi pare così mio obbligo.
Alla vostra io non ho che dirvi, se non che seguitiate l’amore totis habenis, et quel piacere che voi piglierete hoggi, voi non lo harete a pigliare domani; et se la cosa sta come voi me l’havete scritta, io ho più invidia a voi che al re di Inghilterra. Priegovi seguitiate la vostra stella, et non ne lasciate andare un iota per cosa del mondo, perché io credo, credetti, et crederrò sempre che sia vero quello che dice il Boccaccio: che gli è meglio fare et pentirsi, che non fare et pentirsi.
Addì 25 di Febbraio 1514.
Niccolò Machiavelli in Firenze
http://www.classicitaliani.it/machiav/mac64_let_06.htm Edizione di riferimento Niccolò Machiavelli, Tutte le opere a cura di Mario Martelli, Sansoni Editore, Firenze 1971.

[9] Notoriously homosexual. Of Filippo Casavecchia, in Florence, the relationships he had with Niccolò Machiavelli are better documented, to which he was bound by strong bonds of friendship. The familiarity between the two, which dates back to before 1500, results in particular from a group of five letters sent by Casavecchia between 1507 and 1509, during the stays at Fivizzano and Barga, and by the references that appear in letters by Machiavelli to common friends.
 
[10] Niccolò Machiavelli a Francesco Vettori
Firenze, 3 agosto 1514
A Francesco Vettori in Roma.
Voi, compare, mi havete con più avvisi dello amor vostro di Roma tenuto tutto festivo, et mi havete levato dallo animo infinite molestie, con leggere et pensare a’ piaceri et alli sdegni vostri, perché l’uno non sta bene senza l’altro. Et veramente la Fortuna mi ha condotto in luogo, che io ve ne potrei rendere iusto ricompenso; perché, standomi in villa, io ho riscontro in una creatura tanto gentile, tanto delicata, tanto nobile, et per natura et per accidente, che io non potrei né tanto laudarla, né tanto amarla, che la non meritasse più. Harei, come voi a me, a dire i principii di questo amore, con che reti mi prese, dove le tese, di che qualità furno; et vedresti che le furono reti d’oro, tese tra fiori, tessute da Venere, tanto soavi et gentili, che benché un cuor villano le havesse potute rompere, nondimeno io non volli, et un pezzo mi vi godei dentro, tanto che le fila tenere sono diventate dure, et incavicchiate con nodi irresolubili. Et non crediate che Amore a pigliarmi habbia usato modi ordinarii, perché, conoscendo non li sarebbono bastati, tenne vie extraordinarie, dalle quali io non seppi, et non volsi guardarmi. Bastivi che, già vicino a cinquanta anni né questi soli mi offendono, né le vie aspre mi straccano, né le obscurità delle notti mi sbigottiscano. Ogni cosa mi pare piano, et a ogni appetito, etiam diverso et contrario a quello che doverrebbe essere il mio, mi accomodo. Et benché mi paia essere entrato in gran travaglio, tamen io ci sento dentro tanta dolcezza, sì per quello che quello aspetto raro et suave mi arreca, sì eziam per havere posto da parte la memoria di tutti e mia affanni, che per cosa del mondo, possendomi liberare, non vorrei. Ho lasciato dunque i pensieri delle cose grandi et gravi; non mi diletta più leggere le cose antiche, né ragionare delle moderne; tutte si sono converse in ragionamenti dolci; di che ringrazio Venere et tutta Cipri. Pertanto se vi occorre da scrivere cosa alcuna della dama, scrivetelo, et dell’altre cose ragionerete con quelli che le stimono più, et le intendono meglio, perché io non ci ho mai trovato se non danno, et in queste sempre bene et piacere. Valete.
Ex Florentia, die III Augusti 1514.
Vostro Niccolò Machiavelli
http://www.classicitaliani.it/machiav/mac64_let_06.htm Edizione di riferimento Niccolò Machiavelli, Tutte le opere a cura di Mario Martelli, Sansoni Editore, Firenze 1971.

[11] Francesco Vettori a Niccolò Machiavelli
Roma, 16 gennaio 1515
Spectabili viro Nicholò Machiavelli in Firenze.
† A’ dì 16 di Gennaio 1515.
Caro compare. Io non ho lettere da nessuno che io legha più volentieri, che le vostre, e vorrei potere scrivere molte choxe, le quale conosco non potersi commettere alle lettere. E’ sono più mesi che io intexi benissimo in che modo amavi, e fui per dirvi: « Ah, Coridon, Coridon, quae te dementia cepit? ». Poi, pensando intra me medesimo che questo mondo non è altro che amore, o, per dir più chiaro, foia, mi ritenni; e sono ito considerando quanto li huomini in questo chaxo son dischosto chol chuore a quello dicono cholla bocha. Ha un padre il figluolo e dice volerlo nutrire honesto: non di meno gli chomincia a dare un maestro che tutto dì stia con lui et che habbi commodità farne a suo modo, e gli lascia leggere qualchoxa da fare risentire un morto. La madre lo pulisce, lo veste bene, acciò che piaccia più: quando chomincia crescere, gli dà una camera terrena, dove sia cammino e tutte le altre commodità, perché possa sguazare a modo suo, e menarvi e condurvi chi gli pare. E tutti facciamo choxì, et errano in questo, più quelli a’ quali pare essere ordinati: e però non è da maraviglarsi ch’e nostri giovani sieno tanti lascivi quanto sono, perché questo procede dalla pessima educatione. Et voi et io, anchor che siamo vechi, riteniamo in qualche parte e chostumi presi da giovani, et non c’è rimedio. Duolmi non essere chostì, perché potessimo parlare insieme di queste choxe et di molte altre.
Ma voi mi dite choxa che mi fa stare admirato: d’havere trovato tanta fede e tanta chompassione nella Riccia che, vi prometto, li ero per amor vostro partigiano, ma hora li son diventato stiavo, perché il più delle volte le femmine soglono amare la fortuna et non li huomini, et quando essa si muta mutarsi anchor loro. Di Donato non mi maraviglo perché è huomo di fede, e oltre a questo pruova del continuo il medesimo che voi.
Io vi scripsi che l’otio mi faceva innamorato et choxì vi raffermo, perché ho quasi faccenda nessuna. Non posso molto leggere, rispetto alla vista per l’età diminuita: non posso ire a solazo se non achompagnato, e questo non si può far sempre: non ò tanta auctorità né tante facultà che habbi a essere intratenuto; se mi ochupo in pensieri, li più mi arrechono melanchonia, la quale io fuggo assai; e di necessità bixogna ridursi a pensare a choxe piacevole, né so chosa che dilecti più a pensarvi e a farlo, che il fottere. E filosofi ogni huomo quanto e’ vuole, che questa è la pura verità, la quale molti intendono choxì ma pochi la dichano. Fo pensiero a primavera ridurmi a voi, se mi fia lecito, e parleremo insieme di questo et molte altre choxe. Racomandatemi a Filippo, Giovanni e Lorenzo Machiavelli e a Donato. Christo vi guardi.
Francesco Victori oratore in Roma

http://www.classicitaliani.it/machiav/mac64_let_07.htm Edizione di riferimento: Niccolò Machiavelli, Tutte le opere a cura di Mario Martelli, Sansoni Editore, Firenze 1971.

If you like, you can join the discussion on this post on Gay Project Forum: http://gayprojectforum.altervista.org/T-machiavelli-homosexual
Advertisements

A MARRIED GAY NOT IN CRISIS

Hello Project,
thank you for your last mail that I didn’t expect and made me very happy. We live in different countries, we are of different ages, but in the end we can understand each other fairly well. Perhaps the fact that you are really far from here allows me to express myself more freely. It strikes me that in theory we should have talked especially if not only about sex and instead we ended up talking about work, prospects for the future and a thousand other things. For a 36-year-old gay man like me, it’s very important to have a friend to talk freely without feeling judged. Already the status of gays is complicated because the aggressiveness of the people is strong, but a married gay, at least here where I live, is considered a monster, a pathological case, one which can in no case be a good husband or a good father. You already know my story and know that I have been particularly lucky because I have a real dialogue with my wife, she knows everything about me and she loves me, and I love her well too. Time ago I often wondered if by chance I was bisexual rather than gay, because I love my wife and I can also have sex with her, then I came to the conclusion that I love her because she is a good girl who really wants me and, when I told her what I was thinking about guys, she helped me to be what I really was. She did not blame me and told me that I was a good dad and that she wanted me well without any condition. You can understand, that after months of hesitation, hearing  such a speech has put me in a state of incredible euphoria. But exchanging some mail with you allows me to understand so many other things and to overcome many problems or false problems that I have had for years, such as the guilty feelings for the marriage and the idea of ruining my wife’s life and then I began to focus on the problem of the relationship between affection and sexuality and to understand the real fears my wife can have and of which she doesn’t speak to me. I also knew better how my wife could consider my situation and its possible evolution in the future. I honestly say that at the beginning I did not give much weight to the fact that if I had sexual intercourses with men without adequate protection I would not put just myself at risk but she too. In practice I understand that I must always be very careful about prevention. Until recently, the idea of “trying” with a man came often back to my mind, then you made me understand that what matters is to create a real relationship that can last in time, with or without sex, and I realized that I may have sexually wanted a guy but I never fell in love with a guy. Maybe I would have gay friends to be myself without embarrassment. I think of something that may seem odd, now I feel much less conditioned in masturbation. In the early days I took it as a true betrayal of my wife, I told myself that I had already destroyed the marriage, and then, talking to you, I saw things in a completely different way. I was amazed when you told me I could talk about also to my wife because I never considered such a thing possible. The following day I was courageous and talked to her and she told me that she would be surprised by the opposite and that she did not feel betrayed or offended by the fact that I masturbated thinking about guys. Project, but why didn’t I ever fall in love with a guy? I did a lot of sexual fantasies about guys, but I never fell in love with a guy. Maybe I’m less gay than I think I am, or maybe I have not found the right guy yet, and then why did I contact you, who are far from here and I will probably never know in person to be able to talk freely about these things? It would have been easier to find a gay guy here, but I didn’t do it and I tried to protect myself avoiding any risk of outing.
Perhaps a profound reason for which I love my wife is that she knew everything but she told nothing to anyone, not even her parents or sister, she teamed up with me and with no one else and this reassures me. I keep sleeping with my wife in the double bed and it does not embarrass me at all and I think that it doesn’t embarrass her either, because between us there is some intimacy, even sexual, she doesn’t refuse me and this seems to me almost incredible. Our life is now focused on our son, Matthew, who has just completed two years. When I don’t work in the afternoon I’m home with Matthew and we play together, I throw myself on the ground, I take him on horseback and I see him happy. My wife occasionally comes into the room and sees all this movement and I think she too is happy, then she goes in the scene, she also throws on the carpet and we play in three. Two months ago Matthew was not fine and on that occasion I found with my wife a moment of complete concordance, we looked into our eyes, without saying anything, she went to dress Matthew and I went to pick up the keys of the car and we brought him to the pediatric emergency room. They visited him and sent us home, indicating a therapy to be followed, which we did with the utmost care and Matthew is cured all in three days. Project, I feel that my wife and I really form a family, I know that she will be with me in any case, and she was with me even when she knew of my gay fantasies! Can a man (my hypothetical partner) do something like this? Frankly I do not think so! Not that I believe that this is impossible in general, but I think it would be impossible in my case, because I already have a family and I feel it mine, that is, I will not put it in crisis for any reason. With my wife we also did a reasoning that I never had imagined, she asked me: “But do you think we could have a second son?” And I replied, “Sure!” She smiled and said, “Ok, let’s wait for Matthew to be three years old!” So my wife doesn’t consider our family as a family in crisis and really it is not. My gay fantasies are not destructive and my wife realizes it. I know this is a more unique than rare condition, because in married gay stories I have read terrible things about struggles with the wives for children’s reliance. In practice, everyone took for indispensable the separation and then the divorce and intended to build a gay family, meaning that their being gay was incompatible with their heterosexual marriage. And that was true even in the presence of children, which seems to me truly inconceivable. However, it should also be said that they had wives with whom they had only formal and economic relationships. One thing I still have to say about my wife: between me and her we never, and I just say never, talked about money and certainly we do not navigate in gold. if she has made a purchase I know for sure that it could not have been done better. I also think that the idea of divorce has never really come to my mind. Who knows, maybe having a gay friend over the ocean it’s enough for me! Am I really gay? From all that I’ve written you might be able to doubt it, but I believe it is. I do very little use of pornography, while I like very much the gay movies in which tenderness dominates, because it’s basically what I would like for me. I wonder how it would be a real couple relationship with a man, I often think about, but I cannot imagine it. Would a gay accept the idea that I keep coming with my wife, including some tenderness? And I also wonder if my wife, if I really had a companion, would continue to demonstrate all the mental openness she now demonstrates when I do not have any companion. Would her attitude endure the proof of reality? It would be a terrible trial for her. Now I’m a gay (because I’m gay, though more sexually than emotionally) who lives like a straight but doesn’t live badly, I’m an anomalous guy both as heterosexual and as gay. I talked about you with my wife and she read your e-mails, I have to say she liked them very much, she tells that “you also know about women!” Now I leave you, Project, because I feel that Matthew woke up and he needs his dad.
__________
If you like, you can participate in the discussion of this post, on Gay Project Forum: http://gayprojectforum.altervista.org/showthread.php?tid=143

EXPERIENCES OF A MARRIED GAY

I’m writing to you because I cannot do it anymore, I don’t know where to bang my head. I’m thirty, I’m gay and I’m married for two years, I have a son not yet a year old. I feel literally split in two, on one side there is my wife with my son, on the other my sexuality.

When I was married I was 28 and I was with the same girl for ten years. Everything started almost as a game because all my friends had a girl and I with my friends was fine. Was I gay even then? I think so, my friends were drooling over their girls, I was fine with mine, but already I felt that having a girl at social level, for me was the maximum I could aspire; for my friends to have a girlfriend meant having sex with that girl. For them, doing such things was obvious and obviously very engaging, for me it was kind of a hypothesis that I tried to keep away as much as possible, even though I used to see my girlfriend almost every day with the blessing of my parents who were trying to leave us all the possible freedom, that is, they tended to leave us alone as much as possible, what I was trying to avoid systematically, because when it happened to be alone, a kind of sexual game, that she liked very much, started, but for me it was quite embarrassing.

Playing with a girl, including a certain level of physical contact was after all good and when we kissed the erection arrived. When she was touching me from above my trousers (always from above, with one exception) I felt a strange feeling of the type. “But what am I to do here?” I was wondering why I was not involved as my friends were in similar situations, although I knew it very well. The only time we masturbated each other my feeling was of total passivity, the brain was elsewhere and had already removed everything.

She was obviously inexperienced and then she was a girl and to me it was not good at all and then finding me masturbating a girl provoked me some moment of real rejection. It was a world I did not know at all and that I did not care at all. After that I had to make it clear to my girlfriend that it did not feel right to me to live sexuality that way, in practice I was flaunting false religious sentiments to prevent such experiences from repeating and it worked because she was not really excited by sexuality, at least as far as she could put it into practice with me.

Anyway, she was somehow perplexed at the beginning, that is, she was uncertain, then she realized that if she insisted she would lose me completely and she preferred to avoid systematically the subject, even because she was interested in marriage even then, as if marriage could be imagined without a real sexual interest, at least at the beginning. At that time I was 22 and she 21. We went on for six years between holidays together, without sex, of course, and lunch at my own home one Sunday yes and one no.

Then we had to think about the study and a reason to postpone the important decisions was there, then I graduated and she shortly thereafter.

There is something that I’m ashamed of a bit. I could have looked for work on my own but my father-in-law offered me to work with him and since everything seemed so obvious and the offer was good I accepted almost immediately. My father-in-law created a very collaborative relationship, almost a complicity, but my father-in-law took absolutely for granted that I would marry his daughter in a very short time. I was trapped now and I knew I could not escape so we fixed the date and married.

It all seemed wonderful but between me and my wife there was a fundamental issue never faced, not so much about having sex with her because at the limit, thinking of something else, I could have a sexual intercourse with her, the real problem was that I had a parallel life: no occasional lovers or sexual intercourses, but I was masturbating with gay pornography and I was doing it since I was 15 years old. I never put my wife’s health at risk, I would never have done such a thing and, honestly, it was a hypothesis out of reality.

I knew very well that I did not want to be with a woman, that for me was absolutely unnatural, but in my background there was the idea that “with a bit of will I could set aside the stupid vice of masturbation and so homosexuality would disappear. I started to try everything to get away from homosexual desires, I forced myself not to go to gay sites or rather not to go to porn sites of any kind, because in fact you can see men also in the straight pornography, I tried to drive those which I called “bad thoughts” but there was nothing to do, after a short period of time I was again masturbating with gay videos.

I had, if I can say so, a little bit of tranquility about the last times of my waiting for my son and the first six months after his birth. Frankly I thought I had found peace again. My wife did not attract me sexually but she was busy with the baby now and the problem did not even arise. Grandparents were radiant, we were receiving gifts for the baby and for us, my wife was in the seventh heaven but I slowly began to feel guilty in an ever deeper way: “I have a beautiful family and masturbate thinking about guys, but I am an adult, I am a father, I should think of the happiness of my family but instead of thinking of them I go looking for gay sites and I do it at night, in secret, when they are asleep, I’m just a shabby depraved!”

I considered as irreconcilable things my love for my son and, all in all, also for my wife, who is completely unaware of what I’m going through, and homosexuality, as if they were really incompatible things. I said to myself, “If you do those things you cannot love your son!” And even though I was looking for gay sites all night long, I loved my son tenderly.

Then I started wondering why homosexuality should be destructive of my real family feelings and I came to a conclusion, namely that I would never have wasted my marriage for “a gay adventure”, at that time I used that expression but as long as I was limited to some porn videos, in fact, I would not have destroyed anything, and so, we can say with more awareness, I decided to be able to afford gay pornography even if with limited time and of course in very private form.

Talking with my married friends I learned that they also used pornography, obviously straight, and that, from time to time, they betrayed their wives if they had the opportunity, and so I began to feel less the black sheep.

This is where I am now. I do not think I would ever betray my wife with a man, I do not know, maybe the opportunity has not happened yet and if it will happen I will do in a very different way but honestly I think I would stay in my place, But why should I deprive myself of that little sex that I really feel belongs to me? For the sake of my son? But what do you mean? I do not put anything into crisis and then why should I make a clear speech to my wife about these things? I know that in theory between wife and husband there must be no secrets, but she is happy now, so I just do not see why I should turn her life into crisis because of things she could never understand.

I’m gay but she does not suspect anything like that, so what do I do wrong going on like this? If things will change, I will think about, but now speaking clearly would mean destroying everything for a matter of principle that, in certain cases, can make sense, but in this case it’s completely misleading.

I’m anxious for your answer.

__________

If you like, you can participate in the discussion of this post, on Gay Project Forum: http://gayprojectforum.altervista.org/showthread.php?tid=138

LORD BYRON HOMOSEXUAL

The problem of sources

André Raffalovich deals with Byron’s homosexuality in an extremely synthetic way, not to say reductive, but it should be kept in mind that Byron, more than a person, is an icon, a myth of English Romanticism, and that a myth is such as it is supported by a mythology, which, as is well known, is an enemy of history. Raffalovich was certainly not superficial when conducting his studies on homosexuality in history and literature, his succinctness derives from substantial reasons and not from personal assessments. Raffalovich on Byron had only very small and widely censored sources.

Thomas Moore, with his “Letters and Journals of Lord Byron” has for a long time been the only point of reference for Byron’s life studies. The work was published in 1830 but the collection began in 1814, when Byron himself sent Moore a first packet of letters and diaries so that they could be preserved and eventually published. By 1818 Byron began writing his autobiography, which Moore should have published, with additions taken from letters and diaries. Byron assumed that Moore could earn profits from the publication. Moore through Byron’s Letters and Diaries publishing intended to correct the idea that Byron was a vicious misanthropist, idea widespread in England well before the poet died, showing in the contrary his amiability. From the correspondence between Byron and Moore it is clear that both worked and in agreement on the project. Byron expresses concern for the fate of all that material, but at the same time invites to trust Moore, even though he knows that after his death Moore will still work a censorship, so to speak, a prudential censorship.

In 1830, just a few years after Byron’s death, most of the people mentioned in his letters were still alive, and the lawyers of those families would certainly read Moore’s biography. The people involved in Byron’s most or less honorable events were very powerful and influential, and it could not be surprising that Moore has acted censorship, but it is surprising that the biography has not been much more censored than it really was. The original memories of Byron, the core of the business, was destroyed by the will of Byron’s friends, and in particular by the executor, Hobhouse, who was largely involved in Byron’s affair with homosexuality, despite Moore’s protests. http://www.lordbyron.org/contents.php?doc=ThMoore.1830.Contents

Evidently, full publication would have created a great deal of embarrassment on many powerful people whose private life would have been put on the streets and would have heavily discredited Byron’s memory, supporting the allegations of homosexuality, sodomy, and incest that had been brought against him. It is not a moralistic censorship choice, as it is often presented, but an option without real alternatives, save perhaps the freezing of the publication for 50 or more years.

Byron biography books are many and also those who deal with the theme of the poet’s homosexuality are quite numerous. For me, in 2017, the greatest risk of trying to write a Byron homosexual biography is to be a “great translator of Homer’s translators”, that is to use rather than the sources, what others have written on the subject. The temptation is great and the work would be greatly facilitated, but when it comes to highlighting historiography more than documents, history becomes history of historiography and that’s exactly what I want to avoid here.

In the studies on Byron, a milestone is represented by the monumental and punctual philological work done by Peter Cochran (1944- 2015), who not only has rigorously transcribed an immense amount of Byron’s letters, documents, and texts but has opened to anyone free access to his archives. I have constantly referred to these archives in my attempt to reconstruct the facts, avoiding, as far as possible, deforming them on the basis of ideological assumptions.

The early years

George Gordon Noel Byron, was born in London, at Holles Street n.16, January 22, 1788, by John Byron and Catherine Gordon of Gight. A contraction of the Achilles tendon, found at birth, he made him slightly limp since he was a child. George Gordon spends his early years in Aberdeen at his mother’s home. His father, reduced to poverty from debt, retires to France, where he dies, probably suicidal, in 1791. At the time of his death, in 1798, George Gordon inherited his noble title and his property at the age of 10, becoming Sixth Baron Byron of Rochdale and then Lord. He leaved the Aberdeen’s maternal home and went to Newstead Abbey that was in abandonment at that time. He had inherited from his uncle great possessions but also many debts.

Cambridge          

In October 1805, at age 17, nearly 18, he joined Trinity College in Cambridge, where he became acquainted with those who became his closest friends: Edward Noel Long, William Bankes, Francis Hodgson, Douglas Kinnaird, John Cam Hobhouse, Scrope Berdmore Davies and Charles Skinner Matthews are all among his close friends. At Trinity College, in October 1815, Byron also met John Edleston (then sixteen), a blond, beautiful boy, then Trinity College chorister. In 1816 Edleston gave Byron a spell of cornelian shaped heart. At the gift Byron writes:

THE CORNELIAN(a)
1.
No specious splendour of this stone
Endears it to my memory ever;
With lustre ‘only once’ it shone,
And blushes modest as the giver. (b)
2.
Some, who can sneer at friendship’s ties,
Have, for my weakness, oft reprov’d me;
Yet still the simple gift I prize,
For I am sure, the giver lov’d me.
3.
He offer’d it with downcast look,
As ‘fearful’ that I might refuse it;
I told him, when the gift I took,
My ‘only fear’ should be, to lose it.
4.
This pledge attentively I view’d,
And ‘sparkling’ as I held it near,
Methought one drop the stone bedew’d,
And, ever since, ‘I’ve lov’d a tear.’
5.
Still, to adorn his humble youth,
Nor wealth nor birth their treasures yield;
But he, who seeks the flowers of truth,
Must quit the garden, for the field.
6.
‘Tis not the plant uprear’d in sloth,
Which beauty shews, and sheds perfume;
The flowers, which yield the most of both,
In Nature’s wild luxuriance bloom.
7.
Had Fortune aided Nature’s care,
For once forgetting to be blind,
‘His’ would have been an ample share,
If well proportioned to his mind.
8.
But had the Goddess clearly seen,
His form had fix’d her fickle breast;
‘Her’ countless hoards would ‘his’ have been,
And none remain’d to give the rest.

(a) The cornelian was a present from his friend Edleston, a Cambridge chorister, afterwards a clerk in a mercantile house in London. Edleston died of consumption, May 11, 1811. (See letter from Byron to Miss Pigot, October 28, 1811.) Their acquaintance began by Byron saving him from drowning. (MS. note by the Rev. W. Harness.)
(b) ‘But blushes modest’.

On February 23, 1807, Byron wrote from Southwell to Edward Noel Long, his childhood friend and added to his letter this post scriptum: “If possible I will pass through Granta, in March, pray, keep the subject of my “Cornelian” Secret.” (Granta is the original name, still in use locally, for the River Cam, this name indicates, by extension, the city of Cambridge). Thomas Moore, who deleted homosexual passages from survived diaries and letters, called Edleston “adopted brother” of Byron.

A short time before Byron left Cambridge on June 27, 1807 he sent to John Edleston a short note written in cypher characters and translated by Leslie Marchand with the help of an alphabetical key found in his papers.

LORD BYRON TO JOHN EDLESTON  May, 1807

D–R–T [Dearest?] —  Why not? With this kiss make me yours again forever.
Byron

[“Byron’s Letters and Journals” a new selection – From Leslie A. Marchand’s – twelve-volume edition – Oxford University Press, 2015. Page. 22.]

To that same Cornelian, donated by Edleston to Byron, the poet refers in the poem “The Adieu” (of which we do not possess the date) at the time of separation from Edleston.

The Adieu

by George Gordon Lord Byron

Written Under The Impression That The Author Would Soon Die.

Adieu, thou Hill! where early joy
Spread roses o’er my brow;
Where Science seeks each loitering boy
With knowledge to endow.
Adieu, my youthful friends or foes,
Partners of former bliss or woes;
No more through Ida’s paths we stray;
Soon must I share the gloomy cell,
Whose ever‑slumbering inmates dwell
Unconscious of the day.

Adieu, ye hoary Regal Fanes,
Ye spires of Granta’s vale,
Where Learning robed in sable reigns,
And Melancholy pale.
Ye comrades of the jovial hour,
Ye tenants of the classic bower,
On Cama’s verdant margin placed,
Adieu! while memory still is mine,
For, offerings on Oblivion’s shrine,
These scenes must be effaced.

Adieu, ye mountains of the clime
Where grew my youthful years;
Where Loch na Garr in snows sublime
His giant summit rears.
Why did my childhood wander forth
From you, ye regions of the North,
With sons of pride to roam?
Why did I quit my Highland cave,
Mar’s dusky heath, and Dee’s clear wave,
To seek a Sotheron home!

Hall of my Sires! a long farewell–
Yet why to thee adieu?
Thy vaults will echo back my knell,
Thy towers my tomb will view:
The faltering tongue which sung thy fall,
And former glories of thy Hall,
Forgets its wonted simple note–
But yet the Lyre retains the strings,
And sometimes, on Æolian wings,
In dying strains may float.

Fields which surround yon rustic cot,
While yet I linger here,
Adieu! you are not now forgot,
To retrospection dear.
Streamlet! along whose rippling surge
My youthful limbs were wont to urge,
At noontide heat, their pliant course;
Plunging with ardour from the shore,
Thy springs will lave these limbs no more,
Deprived of active force.

And shall I here forget the scene,
Still nearest to my breast?
Rocks rise and rivers roll between
The spot which passion blest;
Yet, Mary, all thy beauties seem
Fresh as in Love’s bewitching dream,
To me in smiles display’d;
Till slow disease resigns his prey
To Death, the parent of decay,
Thine image cannot fade.

And thou, my Friend! whose gentle love
Yet thrills my bosom’s chords,
How much thy friendship was above
Description’s power of words!
Still near my breast thy gift I wear
Which sparkled once with Feeling’s tear,
Of Love the pure, the sacred gem;
Our souls were equal, and our lot
In that dear moment quite forgot;
Let Pride alone condemn!

All, all is dark and cheerless now!
No smile of Love’s deceit
Can warm my veins with wonted glow,
Can bid Life’s pulses beat:
Not e’en the hope of future fame
Can wake my faint, exhausted frame,
Or crown with fancied wreaths my head.
Mine is a short inglorious race,–
To humble in the dust my face,
And mingle with the dead.

Oh Fame! thou goddess of my heart;
On him who gains thy praise,
Pointless must fall the Spectre’s dart,
Consumed in Glory’s blaze;
But me she beckons from the earth,
My name obscure, unmark’d my birth,
My life a short and vulgar dream:
Lost in the dull, ignoble crowd,
My hopes recline within a shroud,
My fate is Lathe’s stream.

When I repose beneath the sod,
Unheeded in the clay,
Where once my playful footsteps trod,
Where now my head must lay,
The weed of Pity will be shed
In dew-drops o’er my narrow bed,
By nightly skies, and storms alone;
No mortal eye will deign to steep
With tears the dark sepulchral deep
Which hides a name unknown.
Forget this world, my restless sprite,
Turn, turn thy thoughts to Heaven:
There must thou soon direct thy flight,
If errors are forgiven.
To bigots and to sects unknown,
Bow down beneath the Almighty’s Throne;
To Him address thy trembling prayer:
He, who is merciful and just,
Will not reject a child of dust,
Although his meanest care.

Father of Light! to Thee I call;
My soul is dark within:
Thou who canst mark the sparrow’s fall,
Avert the death of sin.
Thou, who canst guide the wandering star,
Who calm’st the elemental war,
Whose mantle is yon boundless sky,
My thoughts, my words, my crimes forgive:
And, since I soon must cease to live,
Instruct me how to die.

On June 30, 1807, Byron, while still in Cambridge, probably after a short absence (and after the farewell to Edleston), writes to his friend Elizabeth Bridget Pigot (1783-1866).

[Byron to Elizabeth Pigot, from Trinity College, Cambridge, June 30th 1807: (Source: text from Newstead Abbey Collection NA 948(j); LJ I 120-3; QI 28-9; BLJ I 123-4)]

LORD BYRON TO ELIZABETH BRIDGET PIGOT      Cambridge June 30th, 1807

. . . I am almost superannuated here. My old friends (with the exception of a very few) all departed, and I am preparing to follow them, but remain till Monday to be present at 3 Oratorios, 2 Concerts, a Fair, and a Ball. I find I am not only thinner but taller by an inch since my last visit. I was obliged to tell every body my name, nobody having the least recollection of visage, or person. Even the hero of my Cornelian (who is now sitting vis-à-vis, reading a volume of my Poetics) passed me in Trinity walks without recognising me in the least, and was thunderstruck at the alteration which had taken place in my countenance, &c., &c. Some say I look better, others worse, but all agree I am thinner, – more I do not require. . . .
I quit Cambridge with little regret, because our set are vanished, and my musical protégé before mentioned has left the choir, and is stationed in a mercantile house of considerable eminence in the metropolis. You may have heard me observe he is exactly to an hour two years younger than myself. I found him grown considerably, and as you will suppose, very glad to see his former Patron. He is nearly my height, very thin, very fair complexion, dark eyes, and light locks. My opinion of his mind you already know; – I hope I shall never have reason to change it. Every body here conceives me to be an invalid. The University at present is very gay from the fêtes of divers kinds. I supped out last night, but eat (or ate) nothing, sipped a bottle of claret, went to bed at two, and rose at eight. I have commenced early rising, and find it agrees with me. The Masters and the Fellows are all very polite but look a little askance – don’t much admire lampoons – truth always disagreeable.

The relationship between Byron and John Edleston continues until Byron leaves Trinity in the summer of 1807. Farewell takes place July 5, 1087, as we know from a Byron letter to Miss Pigot.

Byron to Elizabeth Pigot, from Trinity College Cambridge, July 5th 1807: (Source: text from Newstead Abbey Collection NA 948(k); LJ I 133-6; QI 29-31; BLJ I 124-5)

LORD BYRON TO ELIZABETH BRIDGET PIGOT  Trin. Coll. Camb. July 5th, 1807

My Dear Eliza.

Since my last letter I have determined to reside another year at Granta, as my rooms, etc. etc. are finished in great style, several old friends come up again, and many new acquaintances made; consequently my inclination leads me forward, and I shall return to college in October if still alive. My life here has been one continued routine of dissipation – out at different places every day, engaged to more dinners, etc. etc. than my stay would permit me to fulfil. At this moment I write with a bottle of claret in my head and tears in my eyes; for I have just parted with my “Cornelian,” who spent the evening with me. As it was our last interview, I postponed my engagement to devote the hours of the Sabbath to friendship: – Edleston and I have separated for the present, and my mind is a chaos of hope and sorrow. To-morrow I set out for London: you will address your answer to “Gordon’s Hotel, Albemarle Street,” where I sojourn during my visit to the metropolis.

I rejoice to hear you are interested in my protégé; he has been my almost constant associate since October, 1805, when I entered Trinity College. His voice first attracted my attention, his countenancefixed it, and his manners attached me to him for ever. He departs for a mercantile house in town in October, and we shall probably not meet till the expiration of my minority, when I shall leave to his decision either entering as a partner through my interest, or residing with me altogether. Of course he would in his present frame of mind prefer the latter, but he may alter his opinion previous to that period; – however, he shall have his choice. I certainly love him more than any human being, and neither time nor distance have had the least effect on my (in general) changeable disposition. In short we shall put Lady E. Butler and Miss Ponsonby to the blush, Pylades and Orestes out of countenance, and want nothing but a catastrophe like Nisus and Euryalus to give Jonathan and David the “go by”. He certainly is perhaps more attached to me than even I am in return. During the whole of my residence at Cambridge we met every day, summer and winter, without passing one tiresome moment, and separated each time with increasing reluctance. I hope you will one day see us together. He is the only being I esteem, though I like many. . . . My protégé breakfasts with me; parting spoils my appetite – excepting from Southwell [i.e. leaving England altogether].

So far, the reader has been able to follow Byron’s homosexual history until the age of nineteen and a half: the resulting picture is still conforming to the Byronian myth: there is the love for a boy who was two years younger than the poet, but the border between love and friendship is very labile and the term “protector”, which Byron uses to designate Edleston without being too explicit, seems to emphasize more than a difference in age, a social difference, which is not overcome by feelings. Byron certainly will not give up on the Grand Tour, typical of high-ranking youth, to stay alongside Edleston, who will follow his way as a businessman. We must always keep in mind, however, that we are dealing with Byron’s homosexuality relying only on the little that has remained after the destruction of his Memories, wanted by his friends after the poet’s death. The beautiful youth surrounding Byron had little to do with the heroes of Foscolo and Alfieri heroes, they were young guys, who belonged to aristocratic and very rich British families, and for them the university life in Cambridge was certainly not limited to the study. Byron himself, as we have seen, highlights the festive aspect of university life, especially in the summer, but student life could not be reduced to ritual parties and entertainments, or rather ritual parties could be interesting occasions for heterosexual students, certainly not for homosexual ones. There was, then, as there is now, an underground university life linked to homosexuality, and Byron was not alien to all this. We cannot hope to find out such things in Moore’s Biography, but clues and evidences exist anyway. We have fortunately a letter from Charles Skinner Matthews to Byron, London, June 30, 1809, on the departure of Byron for the Grand Tour, of this letter will be discussed in detail below. Matthews, the author of this letter, was born on March 26, 1785 and therefore nearly three years older than Byron, was elected a fellow of Downing College in Cambridge (this fact is mentioned in the letter) and unfortunately died drowned in the Cam, while bathing, August 3, 1811, at age 26. When Matthews, defined by Moore as “the libertine friend of Byron,” wrote the mentioned letter, he was at the beginning of his 24  and Byron was 21. The letter highlights many interesting facts: at least three people (Byron, Hobhouse and Matthews) used to convey homosexual content a “mysterious” style, so they define it, “that style in which more is meant than meets the Eye”. Matthews found the reason very simply in the fact that “should the tabellarians [postmen] be inclined to peep”. In a time when homosexuality was a serious offense and sodomy involves the death penalty, a cryptic language imposed itself as an indispensable security condition. We’ve already seen that Byron and Edleston in the college exchanged encrypted messages, but here we are not talking about short messages but about real letters with encrypted and unencrypted parts. The “mysterious” style was recently inaugurated and was in the process of being routed because it was designed to keep long-distance correspondence between guys involved in the Grand Tour and guys in England. The likelihood that Turkish police could inspect letters sent to England from very wealthy foreigners was certainly far more than a theoretical hypothesis and the encrypted text was not to be recognized as such. The use of expressions in French, of words to be understood according to French reading or the identification of coded words, among others, with the addition of one “e” at the end, were artifices unlikely to be recognizable to an unknowing eye. Thus a true brotherhood was created, the brotherhood “de la Methode” (in French) (Methode (ending with “e”) = homosexuality) and the adepts were the Methodistes (with “e”), who obviously had nothing to do with the Methodist Church. We can talk about Methodiste desires, other Methodistes, apostles of religion, and so on. Hunting for boys is encrypted with the botanical metaphor of collecting flowers and flowers have significant names: Hyacinth (which alludes to the boy loved by Apollo) represents the homosexual partner available; but the metaphor goes even further, because according to the legend, Hyacinth died during a launch of disks or rings because the wind let go back the disk that struck Hyacinth violently. In English “coit” is a variant of “quoit” = ring of iron, plastic, rope, etc., used in the game of quoits. Therefore Hyacinth died for a “coit”, a word that alludes openly to “coitus” = sexual intercourse. To indicate a complete sexual intercourse, the Methodistes (with “e”) used the acronym pl&optC = “plenum et optabilem coitum” (full and desirable sexual intercourse), an expression used by Petronius in his Satyricon. Some traits of Matthews’s letter remain nevertheless obscure. Beyond the Methodistes Sect and their cryptic language, Matthews’ letter contains another very important element in Byron’s homosexual biography. Matthews talks about an “Abbey Hyacinth” (with reference to the fact that Byron had lived the first adolescence in Newstead Abbey), the “Abbey Hyacinth” is Robert Rushton ( 1793-1833), a boy who was about 16 years old at the time of Matthews’ letter. Robert Rushton was the son of William Rushton, one of the most important tenants in Newstead estate. In 1808, at the age of about 14 to 15 years, Robert was in service at the Abbey as a Byron page, Byron took the boy with himself on the journey to Europe in 1809, but then sent him back home from Gibraltar and paid the expenses for his education in Newark; however, we will have the opportunity to deal again with Rushton later, let us here just note that among Byron’s friends Rushton is considered as one of the complacent boys whom Byron could enjoy. We will see that Byron showed friendly attitudes towards Rushton, even in very embarrassing situations for the poet. A reflection should be made on a very important point: the “loves” or perhaps more banally Byron’s homosexual interests are not directed towards its peers but towards boys of very different social condition. Raffalovich, at the end of the eighteenth century, will blame John Addington Symonds for similar attitudes, but Symonds, while being a wealthy man, was certainly not a lord and his attitudes show a substantial affection for young men (non-adolescents) whom he falls in love with, Byron, perhaps because he is still very young, seems to swing between romantic and goliardic attitudes, where homosexuality becomes argument of social play and hot speeches between mates.

On June 25, 1809, just before embarkation, Byron communicated to Henry Drury that one of the reasons for his trip to the eastern Mediterranean was the ambition to contribute to a book proposed by Hobhouse [Byron’s Letters and Journals, ed. Leslie A. Marchand, 13 vols, John Murray, 1973-94; I 208.]]

“… a chapter on the state of morals, and a further treatise on the same to be entituled “Sodomy simplified or Pæderasty proved to be praiseworthy from ancient authors and from modern practice.” – Hobhouse further hopes to indemnify himself in Turkey for a life of exemplary chastity at home by letting out his “fayre body” to the whole Divan.(a)” (BLJ I 208)

(a) The Divan is a Turkish reserved room, meaning, obviously joking, that Hobhouse wanted to prostitute with all those present.

Byron, Hobhouse and Matthews’s interest in boys is very evident in a letter written by Byron and Hobhouse to Matthews from Falmouth just before their departure for the Grand Tour on June 22, 1809. Byron and Hobhouse use this in this letter the code “mysterious”. Hobhouse writes:

Byron and John Cam Hobhouse to Charles Skinner Matthews, from Falmouth, June 22nd 1809:

(Source: text from B.L.Add.Mss. 47226 ff.6-7; BLJ I 206-7) [(in Byron’s hand): Falmouth June twenty-two / C.S.Matthews Esqre / 13 Bunbury Court / Strand / London / Byron]

Falmouth June 22

My dear Matthews Under  – omissis – As to the journey of Byron & myself to this port I have little or nothing to inform you of, except that nothing happened worthy of notice. I should not however forget to inform a Methodiste,(a) that by a curious accident we overtook Caliph Vathek(b) at Hartford Bridge; we could not obtain a sight of this great apostle,(c) he having closed the shutters on the out-side. By another strange coincidence, we heard at Salisbury, that a noble namesake of a Trinity Friend of your’s(d) was upon the road for his Devonshire seat.

These things do not happen without some intention of the gods, & are certainly ominous of either something very bad or very fortunate – Besides all this, the Cornish air is so exceedingly favorable to complexion, that the roses of the genus andron(1) are the most universally blooming you ever beheld, so much so, that our conversation here, pupis pars non minima fueris,(e) has generally turned on that interesting topic – … – omissis –

Byron writes: My dear Mathieu, – I take up the pen which our friend has for a moment laid down merely to express a vain wish that you were with us in this detestable region, as I do not think Georgia itself can emulate its capabilities or incitements to the “Plen. and optabil. – Coit.”(g) the port of Falmouth & parts adjacent. – –

We are surrounded by Hyacinths & other flowers of the most fragrant [tear: “na”]ture, – & I have some intention of culling a handsome Bouquet to compare with the exotics we expect to meet in Asia. – One specimen I shall certainly carry off, but of this hereafter. – Adieu Mathieu! — —

(a) Codeword for “homosexual”.
(b) William Beckford, author of Vathek, B.’s favourite book.
(c) At BLJ I 210 (letter to Francis Hodgson, June 25th 1809) B. refers to Beckford as “the great Apostle of Pæderasty”. See CHP I st.22, especially its first version.
(d) Trinity friend unidentified.
(e) Male gender.
(f) Latin expression that should mean “You were not a negligible topic for kids” but the term “pupis” seems rather unlikely in Latin
(g) Petronius, Satyricon, par. 86.

But let’s come to Matthews’s letter.

Charles Skinner Matthews to Byron, from London, June 30th 1809:
(Source: National Library of Scotland 12604 / 4247G)

London. Saturday June 30. 1809
In transmitting my dispatches to Hobhouse, mi carissime βυρον (a) I cannot refrain from addressing a few lines to yourself: chiefly to congratulate you on the splendid success of your first efforts in the mysterious, that style in which more is meant than meets the Eye.(b) I shall have at you in that style before I fold up this sheet.

Hobhouse too is uncommonly well, but I must recommend that he do not in future put a dash under his mysterious significances, such a practise would go near to letting the cat out of the bag, should the tabellarians(c) be inclined to peep: And I positively decree that every one who professes ma methode do spell the term w ch. designates his calling with an e at the end of it – methodiste, not methodist; and pronounce the word in the French fashion. Every one’s taste must revolt atconfounding ourselves with that sect of horrible, snivelling, fanatics.

As to your Botanical pursuits, I take it that the flowers you will be most desirous of culling will be of the class polyandria,(d) and not monogynia (e) but nogynia.(f) However so as you do not cut them it will all do very well.

A word or two about hyacinths. Hyacinth, you may remember, was killed by a Coit.(g) but not that “full and to-be- wished-for Coit.” have a care then that your Abbey Hyacinth (h) be not injured by either sort of coit. If you should find anything remarkable in the botanical line, pray send me word of it, who take an extreme

interest in your anthology; and specify the class & if possible the name of each production.

Tomorrow morning I am going to Cambridge to invest myself with the magisterial hat, to drink ale, &, eventually, to play at Coits. It is not auditable (though from it’s auricular qualities it might almost be called so) which I am so eager to obtain, but some which comes from a more northern part of the kingdom. You who are so well acquainted with the topography of our cellar will immediately comprehend the sort I mean, when I tell you that I mean to broach one of two butts which I have often pointed out to your notice; not the tall one. And of the pl&optC, (i) should I be so happy as to obtain one, or of the progress towards it, you shall be fully informed.

I have not yet seen the hero of that Treatise on the Bathos which you promised me, but were too much engaged to execute; But, in another point, I have been admitted behind the scenes & was very much disappointed on a rear inspection of the Palma.

I admire the stoical unconcern & Christian resignation with which both of you seem to bear your disappointment of the Packet; & the consequent prolongation of your stay in this country. From which I readily infer that there must be something in Falmouth not a little delectable, and deplore my lot that I am not sharing your delights. I enclose with this the frontispiece to the Trial of Cap. Sutherland: which I bought yesterday thinking that it might contain quelque chose de la methode: but nothing of the kind appears. The face & right thumb of the negro are the principal features in the picture: which I send you on account of it’s oddity: and think that you, Hobhouse, & M.

l’Abbé Hyacinth (l) might represent the scene with much effect, taking the parts of the Captain, the negro, & the cabin boy, respectively.

I cannot conclude without exhorting & beseeching you, as I have besought Hobhouse, to oblige me with frequent favours in the epistolary way both before & after your leaving England.

Adieu my dear Lord; I wish you, not as Dr Johnson wished Mr Burke, all the success which an honest man can or ought to wish you, (m) but as grand founder and arch-Patriarch of the Methode I give your undertaking my benediction, and wish you, Byron of Byzantium, and you, Cam of Constantinople, jointly & severally, all the success which in your most methodistical fantasies you can wish yourselves.
So sail along with happy auspices & believe me.
Your’s very sincerely
C.S.M.

(a) “Byron” (Greek).
(b) Matthews refers to the coded style of B.’s letter of June 22nd.
(c) Postmen.
(d) “with many males”.
(e) “with a single female”.
(f) “nogynia” is Matthews’ coinage: “with no females”.
(g) Hyacinth was killed when a discus he with which he was practising in a contest with Apollo, his lover, was flung back at him by the jealous West Wind.
(h) Robert Rushton.
(i) “Coitum plenum et optabilem” – “full and highly satisfactory sex”. From Petronius’ Satyricon.
(l) Robert Rushton.
(m) “When the general election broke up the delightful society in which we had spent some time at Beconsfield, Dr. Johnson shook the hospitable master of the house [Burke] kindly by the hand, and said, “Farewell my dear Sir, and remember that I wish you all the success which ought to be wished you, which can possibly be wished you indeed – by an honest man.’” – Piozzi’s Anecdotes, p.242

If Matthews’s letter stopped only with goliardic gossip about homosexuality, it would just be another manifestation of the desecrating livelihood of a group of homosexual young people, after all, nothing at all disruptive, but Matthews’s letter presents another element, not immediately obvious, but that needs to be clarified to understand the mentality of these guys more closely. The three Methodistes follow the English press carefully. Matthews’s letter is dated June 30, 1809, and refers to the trial of Captain Sutherland, who had been hanged the day before, on June 29, at the strength of the capital executions on the banks of the River Thames, used for the judgments handed down by the Admiralty. On November 5, 1808, Captain Sutherland (captain of a British shipping vessel on the Tagus, one mile from Lisbon) had killed with a dagger William Richardson, a 15-year-old boy. A black sailor, John Thompson, testifies to the trial in a way that could suggest that the captain had taken the boy in Lisbon about a month earlier because he was sexually concerned with him: the guy often went to the captain and the captain sent all sailors to the ground and stayed on the ship with the boy only. This testimony was not read by the Admiralty as a sign of sodomy, but after a brief process, Sutherland was sentenced and hanged for murder. It is amazing that on such a recent and so objectively terrible story, Matthews can make the spirit with his friends, but that’s just what happens. Matthews obtains a record of the process to look for Sutherland homosexuality, but he does not find it, sends out some drawings published in the papers to his friends and suggests that the three of them may represent the scene of the assassination. Matthews’s behavior shows some disturbing element of perversion, which goes far beyond the banal gay goliardery.

Accompanied by his valet Robert Rushton and by John Cam Hobhouse, Byron sailed from Falmouth on July 2, 1809 to Lisbon, then to visit Seville, Cádiz and Gibraltar. In Gibraltar, Byron decides to send back home Rushton and writes to the boy’s father:

Byron to Mr Rushton, from Gibraltar, August 14th 1809: (Source: NLS Acc.12604/ 4219A or C; LJ I 242-3; BLJ I 222)

Gibraltar August 14th 1809 Mr. Rushton, – I have sent Robert home with Mr. Murray, because the country which I am now about to travel through, is in a state which renders it unsafe, particularly for one so young. – I allow [you] to deduct five and twenty pounds a year for his education for three years provided I do not return before that time, & I desire he may be considered as in my service, let every care be taken of him, & let him be sent to school; in case of my death I have provided enough in my will to render him independent. – – He has behaved extremely well, & has travelled a great deal for the time of his absence. – Deduct the expense of his education from your rent. – Byron

Arrived in Malta on August 19, Byron and Hobhouse stay about a month before leaving for Preveza, the port of Epirus, reached September 20, 1809. From there they move to Giannina and then to Albania, to Tepelenë, where they meet Alì Pasha. They then settle in Athens, except for some months in Constantinople. On May 3, 1810, Byron crosses the Dardanelli’s narrow swimming. That same May 3, 1810 he writes to Henry Drury:

Byron to Henry Drury, from the frigate Salsette, off the Dardanelles, May 3rd 1810: (Source: text from Wren Library R2 40a , Trinity College Cambridge; LJ I 262-9; QI 63-7; BLJ I 237- 40)

… I see not much difference between ourselves & the Turks, save that we have foreskins and they none, that they have long dresses and we short, and that we talk much and they little. – In England the vices in fashion are whoring & drinking, in Turkey, Sodomy & smoking, we prefer a girl and a bottle, they a pipe and pathic. [A passive partner] …

It has long been credited to the news according to which John Cam Hobhouse recorded in his diary on June 6, 1810: “messenger arrived from England – bringing a letter from [Francis] Hodgson to B[yron] – tales spread – the Edleston accused of indecency.”

But Paul Elledge [[In “Lord Byron at Harrow School: Speaking Out, Talking Back, Acting Up, Bowing Out”] [The Johns Hopkins University Press, Beltimore and London, 2000]] showed that the annotation involved a collection of Hobhouse’s poems, considered obscene, the word “Collection” was confused with the word Edleston. Poor John Edleston was in fact not accused of anything.

During the voyage, Byron rejects the love offerings of Donna Josepha Beltram in Seville, Constance Spencer Smith in Malta, and Teresa Macri (or rather Mrs Macri on behalf of Teresa) in Athens. In a letter dated July 29, 2010, sent to Hobhouse from Patras, Byron tells about the first encounter with Eustathius Georgiou, the first boy to fascinate him in Greece:

Byron to John Cam Hobhouse, from Patras, July 29th 1810: (Source: text from NLS Acc.12604 / 4123A; 1922 I 10-12, censored; QI 74-7; BLJ II 5-8) Patras. July 29th . 1810

… At Vostitza I found my dearly-beloved Eustathius – ready to follow me not only to England, but to Terra Incognita, if so be my compass pointed that way. – This was four days ago, at present affairs are a little changed. – The next morning I found the dear soul upon horseback clothed very sprucely in Greek Garments, with those ambrosial curls hanging down his amiable back, and to my utter astonishment and the great abomination of Fletcher, a parasol in his hand to save his complexion from the heat. – However in spite of the Parasol on we travelled very much enamoured, as it should seem, till we got to Patras, where Stranè received us into his new house where I now scribble. …

On August 16, however, Byron is already tired of Eustathius and tells Hobhouse that he has sent him to his home because the boy is epileptic.

Byron to John Cam Hobhouse, from Tripolitza, August 16th 1810: (Source: text from NLS Ms.43438 f.15; 1922 I 12-13, cut; QI 77-82; BLJ II 9-11) Byron’s account of his meeting with Veli Pacha. Tripolitza August 16th. 1810

I have sent Eustathius back to his home, he plagued my soul out with his whims, and is besides subject to epileptic fits (tell M. this)(a) which made him a perplexing companion, in other matters he was very tolerable, I mean as to his learning, being well versed in the Ellenics.You remember Nicolo at Athens Lusieri’s wife’s brother. – Give my compliments to Matthews from whom I expect a congratulatory letter. – – I have a thousand anecdotes for him and you, but at present Τι να καμυ? (b) I have neither time nor space, but in the words of Dawes, “I have things in store.” –

(a) Why should Matthews be especially interested in the fact that Georgiou waseplieptic?
(b) “What to do?”

The “Nicolo” to which Byron refers, the boy whom the poet loved the most during Grand Tour, was actually called Nicolas Giraud and was born in Greece by French parents. The name Nicolo is a name coined by Byron. From what Byron himself says, Nicolo would be the brother-in-law of John the Baptist Lusieri, a Roman painter and swap agent of Thomas Bruce, the 7th Count of Elgin, Lord Elgin. But things were more complicated; Demetrius Zoggrafo, Byron’s guide, informed the poet that Lusieri, now sixty years old, was not married but cuddled two women at the same time, pointing to both of them who would marry her. The link between Lusieri and Giraud seemed very solid and it is not unlikely that they were actually father and son. In the Cappuccini Convent of Athens, Byron succeeds in realizing his dream of a homosexual community similar to Harrow’s, with some extra erotic adventure. On August 23, 1810, Hobhouse wrote in a mixed English language of abundant approximate quotations in Italian, not without a hint of Greek and French:

Byron to John Cam Hobhouse, from Athens, August 23rd 1810: (Source: text from NLS Ms.43438 f.1; 1922 I 13-17; BLJ II 11-14) Byron’s account of his life at the Athenian convent. The Convent. Athens. August 23, 1810.

… – I am most auspiciously settled in the Convent, which is more commodious than any tenement I have yet occupied, with room for my suite, and it is by no means solitary, seeing there is not only “il Padre Abbate” but his “schuola” consisting of six “Regatzi” all my most particular allies. – These Gentlemen being almost (saving Fauvel and Lusieri) my only associates it is but proper their character religion and morals should be described. – Of this goodly company three are Catholics and three are Greeks, which Schismatics I have already set a boxing to the great amusement of the Father who rejoices to see the Catholics conquer. – Their names are, Barthelemi, Giuseppe, Nicolo, Yani, and two anonymous at least in my memory. – Of these Barthelemi is a “simplice Fanciullo” according to the account of the Father, whose favourite is Guiseppe who sleeps in the lantern of Demosthenes. – We have nothing but riot from Noon till night. – The first time I mingled with these Sylphs, after about two minutes reconnoitering, the amiable Signor Barthelemi without any previous notice seated himself by me, and after observing by way of compliment, that my “Signoria” was the “più bello” of his English acquaintances saluted me on the left cheek, for which freedom being reproved by Giuseppe, who very properly informed him that I was “μεγαλοσ”(a) he told him I was his “φιλοσ”(b) and “by his beard,” he would do so again, adding

in reply to the question of “διατι ασπασετε?”(c) you see he laughs, as in good truth I did very heartily. –

But my friend as you may easily imagine is Nicolo, who by the bye, is my Italian master, and we are already very philosophical. – I am his “Padrone” and his “amico” and the Lord knows what besides, it is about two hours since that after {informing} me he was most desirous to follow him (that is me) over the world, he concluded by telling me it was proper for us not only to live but “morire insieme.” –

The latter I hope to avoid, as much of the former as he pleases. – I am awakened in the morning by these imps shouting “venite abasso” and the friar gravely observes it is “bisogno bastonare” everybody before the studies can possibly commence. – Besides these lads, my suite, to which I have added a Tartar and a youth to look after my two new saddle horses, my suite I say, are very obstreperous and drink skinfuls of Zean wine at 8 paras the oke daily. – Then we have several Albanian women washing in the “giardino” whose hours of relaxation are spent in running pins into Fletcher’s backside. – “Damnata di mi if I have seen such a spectaculo in my way from Viterbo.” – In short what with the women, and the boys, and the suite, we are very disorderly. – But I am vastly happy and childish, and shall have a world of anecdotes for you and the “Citoyen.” [[another name for Charles Skinner Matthews, suggesting his democratic politics]] – – Intrigue

flourishes, the old woman Teresa’s mother was mad enough to imagine I was going to marry the girl, but I have better amusement, Andreas is fooling with Dudu as usual, and Mariana has made a conquest of Dervise Tahiri, Viscillie Fletcher and Sullee my new Tartar have each a mistress, “Vive l’Amour!. – –

I am learning Italian, and this day translated an ode of Horace “Exegi monumentum” {into that language} I chatter with every body good or bad and tradute prayers out of the Mass Ritual, but my lessons though very long are sadly interrupted by scamperings and eating fruit and peltings and playings and I am in fact at school again, and make as little improvement now as I did then, my time being wasted in the same way. – However it is too good to last, I am going to make a second tour of Attica with Lusieri who is a new ally of mine, and Nicolo goes with me at his own most pressing solicitation “per mare, per terras” – “Forse” you may see us in Inghilterra, but “non so, come &c.” – For the present, Good even, Buona sera a vos signoria, Bacio le mani.

(a) “a great lord”.
(b) “friend”.
(c) “Why did you embrace him?”

On August 24, 1810, in an addition to the letter dated August 23, Byron adds:

I have as usual swum across the Piræus, the Signore Nicolo also laved, but he makes as bad a hand in the water as L’Abbe Hyacinth at Falmouth, it is a curious thing that the Turks when they bathe wear their lower garments as your humble servant always doth, but the Greeks {not,} however questo Giovane e vergogno. – omissis – I have been employed the greater part of today in conjugating the verb “ασπαζω”(b) (which word being Ellenic as well as Romaic may find a place in the Citoyen’s Lexicon) I assure you my progress is rapid, but like Cæsar “nil actum reputans dum quid superesset agendum”(c) I {must} arrive at the pl&optC, and then I will write to ——. …

(a) Sheridan, The Rivals.
(b) “to embrace”.
(c) Lucan, Phars. II 657 (“… believed nothing had been done while anything was left to be done”).

In his diary of July 17, 1810, Hobhouse had annotated, speaking of an unidentified Greek boy:

Hobhouse’s diary for July 17th 1810 reads, “Took leave, non sine lacrymis, of this singular young person on a little stone terrace near some paltry magazines at the end of the bay, dividing with him a little nosegay of flowers, the last thing perhaps I shall ever divide with him”.

[https://petercochran.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/byron-and-hobhouse-11.pdf  pag. 14, footnote 44.]

On October 4, 1810, Byron wrote to Hobhouse from Patras. In the letter, the “M” refers to Charles Skinner Matthews, their fellow of Cambridge, the Grand Master of the Methodiste Sect. The reference to the flower bouquet is to be interpreted through the botanical metaphor of the Methodistes.

Byron to John Cam Hobhouse, from Patras, October 4th 1810: (Source: text from NLS Ms.43438 f.18; LJ I 301-5; QI 85-7; BLJ II 21-3) Patras. Morea. October 4th. 1810.

… Tell M. that I have obtained above two hundred pl&optC’s and am almost tired of them, for the history of these he must wait my return, as after many attempts I have given up the idea of conveying information on paper. – You know the monastery of Mendele, it was there I made myself master of the first. – Your last letter closes pathetically with a postscript about a nosegay, I advise you to introduce that into your next sentimental novel – I am sure I did not suspect you of any fine feelings, and I believe you are laughing, but you are welcome. – Vale, I can no more like Ld . Grizzle144 – y rs . µπαιρων

Beyond the goliardic letters exchanged between the Methodistes, it is difficult to understand what kind of relationship Byron really had with the guys he talks about and with Nicolo Giraud in particular. I prefer not to venture into hypotheses and I limit myself to what the documents say. Nicholas Giraud cared for Byron when he took the fever in Patras and traveled with him to Malta when Byron was on the way back to England in 1811. In his testament written in August 1811, Byron left Giraud 7,000 pounds, but later the legacy was canceled.

Return to England

Byron returns to England on July 14, 1811. The first of August his mother dies. He lives in London at St Jame’s Street no. 8. Edleston’s sister, the sister of the boy who had been the poet’s first youth love, told him that his brother died in May of that same year. It is a terrible blow for Byron. Edleston was only twenty-one years old when he was worn out by illness. Byron, deeply touched by Edleston’s death, produces at least seven moving elegies in his memory, including “To Thyrza”, “Away, away, ye are notes of woe!”, “One fight more, and I am free.” They are dead, as young and fair”, “On a Cornelian Heart Which Was Broken” and a Latin elegy recently discovered and published in 1974, the only poem that uses masculine gender “You, you, care puer!”. Although Byron dedicates to the death of Edlaston several poetic texts, we will limit ourselves to examining three of them. Let’s begin with “A Thyrza”. Byron takes the name Thyrza from the poem by Solomon Gessner: “Abel’s death,” in which Thyrza is Abele’s wife. This is obviously a female name, but that does not mean anything. Byron was repeatedly required to reveal who was the person whose death his poem talked about but never answered this question. It is interesting to note that here (as in other poems, dedicated to Edleston), the poet strictly avoids any gender connotation of the character in question; in the text there are never personal pronouns like he, she, him, her, instead of the pronouns the word “form” is used, and the text is almost always in second person. It is significant to note that the Italian translation by Carlo Rusconi, published in 1853, takes on the assumption that it is about the death of a woman. At that time, a text without gender connotations was automatically read to the feminine (George Gordon Byron. Opere complete – Volume V. Traduzione di Carlo Rusconi. Torino, Giunti Pombe e comp. Editori, 1853, pp. 238-240).

A THYRZA

Without a stone to mark the spot,
And say, what Truth might well have said,
By all, save one, perchance forgot,
Ah !    Wherefore art thou lowly laid?

By many a shore and many a sea
Divided, yet beloved in vain;
The Past, the Future fled to thee,
To bid us meet — no — ne’er again !

Could this have been — a word, a look,
That softly said, “We part in peace,”
Had taught my bosom how to brook,
With fainter sighs, thy soul’s release.

And didst thou not, since Death for thee
Prepared a light and pangless dart,
Once long for him thou ne’er shall see
Who held, and holds thee in his heart?

Oh ! Who like him had watch’d thee here?
Or sadly mark’d thy glazing eye,
In that dread hour ere death appear,
When silent sorrow fears to sigh,

Till all was past?   But when no more
“Twas thine to reck of human woe
Affection’s heart-drops, gushing o’er
Had flow’d as fast — as now they flow.

Shall they not flow, when many a day
In these, to me, deserted towers,
Ere call’d but for a time away,
Affection’s mingling tears were ours?

Ours too the glance none saw beside;
The smile none else might understand;
The whisper’d thought of hearts allied,
The pressure of the thrilling hand.

The kiss, so guiltless and refined,
That Love each warmer wish forbore;
Those eyes proclaim’d so pure a mind
Even Passion blush’d to plead for more.

The tone, that taught me to rejoice,
When prone, unlike thee, to repine;
The song, celestial from thy voice,
But sweet to me from none but thine;

The pledge we wore — I wear it still,
But where is thine? —  Ah !  Where art thou?
Oft have I borne the weight of ill,
But never bent beneath till now !

Well hast thou left in life’s best bloom
The cup of woe for me to drain.
If rest alone be in the tomb,
I would not wish thee here again..

But if in worlds more blest than this
Thy virtues seek a fitter sphere,
Impart some portion of thy bliss,
To wean me from mine anguish here.

Teach me — too early taught by thee !
To bear, forgiving and forgiven:
On earth thy love was such to me;
It fain would form my hope in heaven !

The short Latin Elegy “Te, te, care puer” (You, you dear boy) entitled “Edleston”, shows a deep pain, though enclosed in classical forms:

Me miserum! Frustra pro te vixisse precatum,
Cur frustra volui te moriente mori? –
Heu, quanto minus est iam serta, unguanta, puellas
Carpere con reliquis quam meminisse tui?

Oh woe! I prayed in vain for having lived for you
Why did I want to die in vain at your own death?
Alas, how is less important to enjoy the laurel wreaths,
the scents and the girls, than to remember you!

Byron sadly communicates Edleston’s death to friends who knew him.

Byron to John Cam Hobhouse, from Newstead Abbey, October 13th 1811: (Source: NLS Ms.43438 f.35; BLJ II 113-14) Another letter filling four sides. It’s clear that Byron knows Greece and Albania better than Hobhouse does. Byron alludes casually to the death of Edleston. Newstead Abbey. Octr . 13th. 1811.

At present I am rather low, & dont know how to tell you the reason – you remember E at Cambridge – he is dead – last May – his Sister sent me the account lately – now though I never should have seen him again, (& it is very proper that I should not)107 I have been more affected than I should care to own elsewhere; Death has been lately so occupied with every thing that was mine, that the dissolution of the most remote connection is like taking a crown from a Miser’s last Guinea. – – – – – –

Byron to John Cam Hobhouse, from King’s College Cambridge, October 22nd 1811: (Source: NLS Ms.43438 f.37; BLJ II 117-18) [Cambridge October twenty third 1811 / Capt . Hobhouse / Royal Miners / Enniscorthy / Ireland // Byron]

… The event(a) I mentioned in my last has had an effect on me, I am ashamed to think of, but there is no arguing on these points. I could “have better spared a better being.”(b) – Wherever I turn, particularly in this place, the idea goes with me, I say all this at the risk of incurring your contempt, but you cannot despise me more than I do myself. – I am indeed very wretched, & like all complaining persons I can’t help telling you so. – – …

(a) The Death of Edleston.
(b) Shakespeare, Henry IV I V iv 104 (adapted).

Byron, who, before departing for the Grnad Tour, had entrusted to Miss Pigot the heart of red cornelian that Edleston had given him, he now feels the need to have that object back again and writes to Mrs. Pigot asking her to solicit her daughter to send it. It is interesting to note that in the letter there is no gender connotation that can make it clear whether the dead person is a man or a woman. Byron speaks of “a person” or “the giver”.

Byron to Mrs Pigot, from Cambridge, October 28th 1811: (Source: text from Newstead Abbey Collection NA 48(n); BLJ II 119-20) Cambridge, Octr . 28th 1811 Dear Madam, – I am about to write to you on a silly subject & yet I cannot well do otherwise. – You may remember a cornelian which some years ago I consigned to Miss Pigot, indeed gave to her, & now I am going to make the most selfish & rude of requests. – – The person who gave it to me, when I was very young, is dead, & though a long time has elapsed since we ever met, as it was the only memorial (almost) I possessed of that person (in whom I was once much interested) it has acquired a value by this event, I could have wished it never 1:2 to have borne in my eyes. – If therefore Miss P should have preserved it, I must under these circumstances beg her to excuse my requesting it to be transmitted to me at No. 8 St . James’s Street London & I will replace it by something she may remember me by equally well. – – As she was always so kind as to feel interested in the fate of [those?] that formed the subject of our conversations, you may tell her, that the Giver of that Cornelian died in May last of a consumption at the age of twenty one, making the sixth within four months of friends & relatives that I have lost between May & the end of August! – Believe [me] Dear Madam yrs. very sincerely BYRON

P.S. – I go to London tomorrow.

In the last months of 1811, the references, obviously covered, to Edleston’s death appear several times in Byron’s poems and with heartfelt accents. I just quote two texts.

AWAY, AWAY, YE NOTES OF WOE!
1.
Away, away, ye notes of Woe!
Be silent, thou once soothing Strain,
Or I must flee from hence—for, oh!
I dare not trust those sounds again.
To me they speak of brighter days—
But lull the chords, for now, alas!
I must not think, I may not gaze,
On what I am—on what I was.
2.
The voice that made those sounds more sweet
Is hushed, and all their charms are fled;
And now their softest notes repeat
A dirge, an anthem o’er the dead!
Yes, Thyrza! yes, they breathe of thee,
dust! since dust thou art;
And all that once was Harmony
Is worse than discord to my heart!
3.
‘Tis silent all!—but on my ear
The well remembered Echoes thrill;
I hear a voice I would not hear,
A voice that now might well be still:
Yet oft my doubting Soul ’twill shake;
Ev’n Slumber owns its gentle tone,
Till Consciousness will vainly wake
To listen, though the dream be flown.
4.
Sweet Thyrza! waking as in sleep,
Thou art but now a lovely dream;
A Star that trembled o’er the deep,
Then turned from earth its tender beam.
But he who through Life’s dreary way
Must pass, when Heaven is veiled in wrath,
Will long lament the vanished ray
That scattered gladness o’er his path.

December 8, 1811.
[First published, Childe Harold, 1812 (4to).]

ONE STRUGGLE MORE, AND I AM FREE.
1.
One struggle more, and I am free
From pangs that rend my heart in twain;
One last long sigh to Love and thee,
Then back to busy life again.
It suits me well to mingle now
With things that never pleased before:
Though every joy is fled below,
What future grief can touch me more?
2.
Then bring me wine, the banquet bring;
Man was not formed to live alone;
I’ll be that light unmeaning thing
That smiles with all, and weeps with none.
It was not thus in days more dear,
It never would have been, but thou
Hast fled, and left me lonely here;
Thou’rt nothing,—all are nothing now.
3.
In vain my lyre would lightly breathe!
The smile that Sorrow fain would wear
But mocks the woe that lurks beneath,
Like roses o’er a sepulchre.
Though gay companions o’er the bowl
Dispel awhile the sense of ill;
Though Pleasure fires the maddening soul,
The Heart,—the Heart is lonely still!
4.
On many a lone and lovely night
It soothed to gaze upon the sky;
For then I deemed the heavenly light
Shone sweetly on thy pensive eye:
And oft I thought at Cynthia’s noon,
When sailing o’er the Ægean wave,
“Now Thyrza gazes on that moon”—
Alas, it gleamed upon her grave!
5.
When stretched on Fever’s sleepless bed,
And sickness shrunk my throbbing veins,
“‘Tis comfort still,” I faintly said,
“That Thyrza cannot know my pains:”
Like freedom to the time-worn slave—
A boon ’tis idle then to give—
Relenting Nature vainly gave
My life, when Thyrza ceased to live!
6.
My Thyrza’s pledge in better days,
When Love and Life alike were new!
How different now thou meet’st my gaze!
How tinged by time with Sorrow’s hue!
The heart that gave itself with thee
Is silent—ah, were mine as still!
Though cold as e’en the dead can be,
It feels, it sickens with the chill.
7.
Thou bitter pledge! thou mournful token!
Though painful, welcome to my breast!
Still, still, preserve that love unbroken,
Or break the heart to which thou’rt pressed.
Time tempers Love, but not removes,
More hallowed when its Hope is fled:
Oh! what are thousand living loves
To that which cannot quit the dead?

[First published, Childe Harold, 1812 (4to).]

Love and betrayals

At the end of 1811, something new happened in Byron’s life. A Byron letter to Hobhouse, dated December 25, 1811, informs us that the poet had “at least a bit” fall in love with a Welsh servant, Susan Vaughan.

Byron to John Cam Hobhouse, from Newstead Abbey, December 25th 1811: (Source: not yet found in NLS Ms.43438; BLJ II 151)

… I am at present principally occupied with a fresh face & a very pretty one too, as H will tell you, a Welsh Girl(a) whom I lately added to the bevy, and of whom I am tolerably enamoured for the present. But of this by the way, I shall most probably be cool enough before you return from Ireland. – …

(a) Susan Vaughan.

Susan Vaughan will betray Byron the following month by seducing Robert Rushton, the Byron page, who had accompanied him to Gibraltar in the Grand Tour. In a letter dated January 20, 1812, Susan Vaughan suggests to Byron that Rushton, then about nineteen, was seduced by Lusy, another Byron servant who, according to Ralph Lloyd-Jones, might have been the mother of one of Byron’s sons.

However, Byron’s letters to Rushton (BLJ II 158) and Susan (BLJ II 159) clearly show that Susan, not Lucy, had a story with Rushton. Byron forgave Rushton (“I am sure you would not deceive me, though she would”), but did not forgive Susan. The affair bothered Byron’s servants: Rushton treated aggressively Susan, Byron rebuked him with great firmness, pointing out that Susan had to be treated with the utmost civilization. Rushton had to accept the reproach but answered with great dignity. Byron tried to keep a positive relationship with the boy.

Byron to Robert Rushton, from 8 St James’s Street, January 25th 1812: (Source: Ms. not found; text from LJ II 94; QI 130-1; BLJ II 158) 8, St. James’s Street, January 25, 1812.

… If any thing has passed between you before or since my last visit to Newstead, do not be afraid to mention it. I am sure you would not deceive me, though she would. Whatever it is, you shall be forgiven. I have not been without some suspicions on the subject, and am certain that, at your time of life, the blame could not attach to you. You will not consult any one as to your answer, but write to me immediately. I shall be more ready to hear what you have to advance, as I do not remember ever to have heard a word from you before against any human being, which convinces me you would not maliciously assert an untruth. There is not any one who can do the least injury to you, while you conduct yourself properly. I shall expect your answer immediately. Yours, etc., BYRON

On January 28, 1812, Byron gave final leave to Susan.

Byron to Susan Vaughan, from 8 St James’s Street London, January 28th 1812: (Source: BLJ II 159) 8. St. James’s Street. January 28th. 1812 I write to bid you farewell, not to reproach you. – The enclosed papers, one in your own handwriting will explain every thing. – I will not deny that I have been attached to you, & I am now heartily ashamed of my weakness. – You may also enjoy the satisfaction of having deceived me most completely, & rendered me for the present sufficiently wretched. – From the first I told you that the continuance of our connection depended on your own conduct. – – All is over. – I have little to condemn on my own part, but credulity; you threw yourself in my way, I received you, loved you, till you have become worthless, & now I part from you with some regret, & without resentment. – I wish you well, do not forget that your own misconduct has bereaved you of a friend, of whom nothing else could have deprived you. – Do not attempt explanation, it is useless, I am determined, you cannot deny your handwriting; return to your relations, you shall be furnished with the means, but him, who now addresses you for the last time, you will never see again. BYRON
God bless you!

On October 18, 1812, Byron wrote to Rushton in a completely different tone:

Byron to Robert Rushton, from Cheltenham, October 18th 1812: (Source: Ms. not found; text from LJ II 177; BLJ II 232) Cheltenham, Oct. 18th, 1812.

Robert,—I hope you continue as much as possible to apply yourself to Accounts and LandMeasurement, etc. Whatever change may take place about Newstead, there will be none as to you and Mr. Murray. It is intended to place you in a situation in Rochdale for which your pursuance of the Studies I recommend will best fit you. Let me hear from you; is your health improved since I was last at the Abbey? In the mean time, if any accident occur to me, you are provided for in my will, and if not, you will always find in your Master a sincere Friend. B.

Wedding stories and incest

Byron had an half-sister, Augusta Maria, born on January 26, 1783, five years older than him. Augusta was the daughter of the first wife of the poet’s father. Augusta married and had seven children; she only met her half-brother when he was a student at Harrow School, and kept with him an exchange of letters focused on Byron’s conflicts with his mother, but she met him very rarely. Throughout the travel period in the East, the exchange of letters broke down. When Byron came back to England, Augusta sent condolences to him on the death of his mother and from July 1813 the two became lovers. Augusta, however, was married, had children and was not planning to put her family in trouble for Byron’s sake. In April 1814, Augusta gave birth to a little girl, Elizabeth Medora  Leigh (April 15, 1814 – August 28, 1849), a few days later, Byron went to his hald-sister’s house to see the little girl. The conviction that Medora was the daughter of Byron became the subject of much talk, and still today the question is unclear. Byron on January 2, 1815, also to silence gossip about his relationship with Augusta, marries Anne Isabella Milbanke, nicknamed Annabella, an heiress learned and passionate about Mathematics, and goes to live in London with her. Byron had not only to silence gossip about his relationship with his half-sister, but also on his homosexuality, that was beginning to move insistently; marriage seemed, among other things, a propitious opportunity to take possession of his wife’s belongings. In December 1815, his daughter Augusta Ada was born, but Byron resumed her relationship with her sister Augusta, and Annabella on January 15, 1816 asked for separation. Byron was accused of incest, adultery, homosexuality, sodomy, free love, and so on. The situation quickly became unsustainable, and the risk of moving from gossip to criminal charges was real and heavy. Byron on April 21, 1816, signed the separation document from his wife and decided to voluntarily exile from England, where he no longer came back.

In Switzerland Shelley

He embarked for the continent on April 25, 1816. Before leaving England, Byron had started a relationship with Claire Clairmont, step-sister of Mary Godwin Wollstonecraft (wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley). With Shelley, his wife and her step-sister, Byron spent a lot of time in good company. From Byron’s relationship with Claire was born Allegra, in January 1817.

In Italy

In October 1816 Byron moved to Milan where he met Silvio Pellico, Vincenzo Monti and Stendhal, then in November 1816 he settled in Venice, where he stayed for three years. Here he learned Italian very well but did not neglect amorous adventures, he boasted of have had sex with more than two hundred women, and he had two important relationships, the first with his hostess’s wife, Marianna Segati, and the latter with the twenty-two years old Margarita Cogni (the Fornarina). Byron’s house on the Grand Canal became a fixed reference point for all the Englishmen who went to Venice, here the fame of tombeur de femmes that accompanied Byron for decades grew. Shelley had been able to see closely Byron’s home in Venice but probably he was not very impressed by all this, some Shelley’s statements, which were very friendly to Byron, seemed generic and referred to the English in general rather than to those who attended Byron’s home. So Shelley writes in the sixth letter to Peacock:

Peacock’s Memoris of Shelley – With Shelley’s Letters to Peacock – Edited by H.
F. B. Brett-Smith – London – Henry Frowde – 1909 – Oxford : Horace Hart – Printed to the University.

LETTER 6

Milan, April 20, 1818.

Lord Byron, we hear, has taken a house for three years, at Venice ; whether we shall see him or not, I do not know. The number of English who pass through this town is very great.

They ought to be in their own country in the present crisis. Their conduct is wholly inexcusable. The people here, though inoffensive enough, seem both in body and soul a miserable race. The men are hardly men ; they look like a tribe of stupid and shrivelled slaves, and I do not think that I have seen a gleam of intelligence in the countenance of man since I passed the Alps.

In April 1819, Byron knew the 18-year-old Teresa, wife of the rich sixty-year-old Count Guiccioli: the woman soon became his lover and the two settled down to the end of 1819 in Ravenna, where Guiccioli lived. The young woman has a very positive influence on the poet, who finally adopts a less franyic lifestyle. Between 1820 and 1821 Byron entered Carboneria (a secret society that conspired against Austria for Italian independence) through the contacts of Teresa’s brother, Count Pietro Gamba. He wants his daughter Allegra to be educated as a Roman Catholic, and he accompanies her in March 1821 in the boarding school run by the Sisters of Bagnacavallo, in Romagna. Allegra will die on April 21, 1822 and July 8 of the same year will also die Shelley, drowned together with his friend Edward Elleker Williams, ten miles from Viareggio.

The Greece and the death

 

In 1823 Byron, induced by his friend John Cam Hobhouse, joined the London Philoellenic Association in support of the Greek Independence and against the Ottoman Empire. Byron organizes an expedition with the utmost care. He convinces Teresa to come back to Ravenna and on July 16  1823, Brigantine “The Hercules” leaves Genoa for Greece. They accompany Byron, Pietro Gamba, Trelawny, a young Italian doctor, as well as eight servants five horses and two dogs. In Livorno climbs to the brigantine a young Scottish, Hamilton Browne. On August 3 the brigantine stops at Kefalonia. On Greek island Byron knows Lukas Chalandritsanos, a Greek boy 15-year-old, and falls in love with him insanity, but his sentiment is not reciprocated. Byron is no longer the lovely boy of Edleston’s time, he is fat, loses his hair and has teeth in a bad state, yet he seeks at least gratitude if not love, spending over a period of six months enormous sums of money to satisfy the boy’s whims. Byron realizes that he is no longer physically a desirable person, but nevertheless he is animated by a love at the limit of madness, the more acute and painful the more rejected. Finally, in December, the poet seems destined to take up the part of Prince Mavrokordato, who more than others guaranteed a serious possibility of establishing a stable authority, and sails for Missolungi, where he came January 5, 1824. Here, in a three-story house occupied by Colonel Stanhope and by a group of Christian Albanians who Byron had hired in Kefalonia, resumes with unremitting obstinacy to work to strengthen the Greek resistance. The main tasks were two: to form an artillery brigade, to assault and conquer Lepanto leading forces whose core should have been constituted by his Albanian guard. Unfortunately, Byron does not get any results. Meanwhile, the story with Lukas became for Byron increasingly destructive. The sign of the terrible despair of that impossible love story (Byron had never experienced anything like this with a woman) can be read in a poem dated January 22, 1824, the thirty-sixth birthday of the poet.

January 22nd 1824. Messalonghi.
On this day I complete my thirty sixth year.

’Tis time this heart should be unmoved,
Since others it hath ceased to move –
Yet though I cannot be beloved
Still let me love!

My days are in the yellow leaf(a)
The flowers and fruits of Love are gone –
The worm – the canker, and the grief
Are mine alone!

The Fire that on my bosom preys
Is lone as some Volcanic Isle,
No torch is kindled at its blaze –
A funeral pile!

The hope, the fear, the jealous care
The exalted portion of the pain
And power of Love I cannot share,
But wear the chain.

But ’tis not thus – and ’tis not here –
Such thoughts should shake my Soul, nor now,
Where Glory decks the hero’s bier
Or binds his Brow.

The Sword – the Banner – and the Field –
Glory and Greece around us see!
The Spartan born upon his shield,
Was not more free!

Awake! – (not Greece – She is awake! –)
Awake my Spirit! think through whom
Thy Life=blood tracks its parent lake,
And then Strike home!

Tread those reviving passions down,
Unworthy Manhood; – unto thee
In different should the smile or frown
Of Beauty be.(b)

If thou regret’st thy Youth, why live?
The Land of honourable Death
Is here – up to the Field! and Give
Away thy Breath.

Seek out – less often sought than found –
A Soldier’s Grave – for thee the best –
Then Look around and choose thy Ground
And take thy Rest!

(a) Macbeth, V iii 22-3: My way of life / Is fall’n into the sear, the yellow leaf …
(b) Refers to Loukas’ indifference. Compare B.’s confession of his inadequacy as a Stoic, at Don Juan, XVII, stanza 10:

If such doom waits each intellectual Giant,
We little people, in our lesser way,
To Life’s small rubs should surely be more pliant;
And so for one will I – as well I may.
Would that I were less bilious – but, Oh fie on’t!
Just as I make my mind up every day
To be a “totus, teres” Stoic Sage,
The Wind shifts, and I fly into a rage.

It is as if Byron was now looking for a heroic death as an alternative to a life without love, almost the search for a martyrdom, caused by a violent and rejected love. In the next few days Byron writes two more poems always dedicated to Lukas, the last of his life, in the first he confesses to be crazy for love facing boy’s rejection, and recognizes that the boy’s magic power is mighty while the poet is so much weak; in the second he surrenders to his destiny:

Thus much and more; and yet thou lov’st me not,
And never wilt!  Love dwells not in our will.
Nor can I blame thee, though it be my lot
To strongly, wrongly, vainly love thee still.

(Bloom, Harold – Poets and Poems – Bloom’s 20th anniversary collection, Chelsea Hose Publishers, pag. 115-116)

February and March pass between rebellions, rains, raids, telluric shocks, incompetence demonstrations, repatriation requests by British blasters, betrayals. When the Turkish fleet appears on the horizon it is now clear that the city is not defensible, the poet tries to personally organize the few troops and encourage the terrorized citizens. In the evening, after a mile ride in the rain, Byron has a violent fever attack. On April 10 and 11, he wants to go out on horseback again, but his fiber is surrendering. Doctors are beginning to be seriously worried and they think they will embark him for Zante if the sea conditions allow it. On Day 15 Byron’s condition worsens. William Parry, in The Last Days of Lord Byron (The Last Days of Lord Byron), reports:

He spoke to me about my own adventures. He spoke of death also with great composure, and though he did not believe his end was so very near, there was something about him so serious and so firm, so resigned and composed, so different from any thing I had ever before seen in him, that my mind misgave me, and at times foreboded his speedy dissolution.

(William Parry, “The last days of Lord Byron”  – Paris – A. and W. Galignani, 1826, pag. 95.)

His speeches began to get disjoined. Among other things, he stated that he wanted to return to England to live with his wife and with his daughter Ada. On the 18th day, in Italian and English, imagining perhaps the attack on Lepanto, he shouted, “Come on! Come on! Courage! Follow My Example!” And in delirium he repeatedly named his sister, wife, daughter, children’s places. His last words were: “Now I have to sleep.” He died the next day, Monday 19 April 1824, at six and a quarter of the afternoon. That same evening, Lukas ran away taking the money from the garrison. The funeral saw an endless procession of forty seven carriages mourned but empty, with the just the driver: it was the last vengeance of the aristocracy against the rebellious poet.

__________

If you like, you can participate in the discussion of this post, on Gay Project Forum:

Section 1: http://gayprojectforum.altervista.org/showthread.php?tid=111

Section 2: http://gayprojectforum.altervista.org/showthread.php?tid=112

GAY MARRIAGE IN FRANCE AND STATE SECULARITY

Starting from April 4, 2013 the Senate of the French Republic will examine the Draft Law No. 344 “for the opening of marriage to same-sex couples” (http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/14/projets/pl0344.asp) already approved by the National Assembly.

The Article. 1 of the Draft Law No. 344 provides that the Chapter I of Title V of Book I of the Civil Code is amended as follows: “is inserted at the beginning of this chapter an art. 143 so defined:

“Article 143 – Marriage is contracted by two people of different sexes or of the same sex. ‘”.

The Draft Law also provides analytically all the provisions of the codes to adapt them to the new Article 143. The entire discipline of marriage, according to the provisions of the Draft Law, can be found on the page http://www.mariage-civil.fr/

It should be emphasized that the new Article 143 of the French Civil Code does not create a special legislation for same-sex couples, possibly extending it to unmarried heterosexual couples, but simply extends marriage rights to all, without exceptions depending on the sex of the spouses and extends the adoption rights to homosexual couples on the basis of the same rules that govern the adoption for heterosexual couples. This means that the new art. 143, secularly and strictly, applies the principle of equality of all citizens in front of the law.

The definition of the new art. 143 of the French Civil Code is the result of a long process of secularization of marriage.

Marriage, in France, was the exclusive prerogative of the Church during the Ancien Régime, the final secularization of marriage has been enshrined in Article 7 of the Constitution of 1791 which states that “the law sees marriage as a civil contract.” The decree of 20 to 25 September 1792 sets up the conditions for the formation of marriage, including the celebration in front of the municipal public official. This conception of civil and secular marriage was endorsed by the authors of the Civil Code. The marriage has no definition in the French Civil Code and the Code does not identify any fixed purpose for the marriage, the Code is just about acts of marriage, then, in a separate heading, about conditions, effects, and the dissolution of the marriage.

The idea of ​​opening marriage to same-sex couples has collected progressively greater acceptance since the adoption of the law n° 99-944 of 15 November 1999 on the Civil Solidarity Pact. The majority of French people are now in favor of access to marriage by same-sex couples. It is true that the Civil Solidarity Pact allowed to meet the real aspiration of society and the regime that it provides has been considerably strengthened and made closer to that of marriage, but differences still remain and this legal instrument does not meet the request of the same-sex couples who wish to marry or their request for access to adoption.

France has to take a step further. This is the purpose of the Draft Law. 344, which opens the right to marry to same-sex couples and therefore also opens access to parenting for these people, through the mechanism of adoption.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, said that the opening of marriage to homosexuals “is socially disruptive” and added, “And then, this will have an infinite number of consequences. After that, they can require to marry non only in couple but in three or four. Then, one day perhaps, will fall also the prohibition of incest.”

The Cardinal Archbishop of Paris Andre Vingt-Trois judged the marriage between persons of the same sex, “an arrogance that will shake one of the pillars of our society.”

The Protestant Federation of France has ruled against “the false idea of ​​marriage for all” as a matter “not theological but social and anthropological.”

The Grand Rabbi of France Gilles Bernheim believes that “the arguments of equality, love, protection or right to a child do not hold up and they cannot justify, they only, a law.”

Olivier-Genh Wang, vice-president of the Union of Buddhists in France, hopes “people to reflect on the consequences that will arise from individualistic and selfish acts.”

(http://www.20minutes.fr/france/1035092-mariage-homosexuel-mgr-vingt-trois-fustige-supercherie)

The French Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM) has published an official document which explains the opposition of the Muslim Law Project but precises, secularly, that “the rules and norms of a religion cannot be used to oppose or evade rules and regulations of the State that apply to everyone.” The document also states that Muslims “strongly condemn all homophobic acts.” According to the CFCM “the mission of marriage cannot be reduced to recognize a bond of love”, marriage presupposes “the foundation of a stable family under the direction of the two spouses”.

(http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/2012/11/06/01016-20121106ARTFIG00611-mariage-gay-l-opposition-des-musulmans.php)

_______
If you like, you can join the discussion on this post on Gay Project Forum:

GAYS AND MASTURBATION BETWEEN SIN AND NORMALITY

This post is dedicated to a comparison between the positions of the Catholic Church on the masturbation and the reality of the phenomenon, as it appears through a simple analysis of the facts.

The definition of masturbation given by the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Part Three, Section Two, Chapter Two, art. 6, n. 2352) (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P85.HTM) is: “deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure“. The English text uses  “sexual pleasure”, but the Latin one uses ”veneream voluptatem” (venereal lust). The use of the adjective venereal, now obsolete in everyday language and even in medical terminology where the expression “venereal diseases” has been replaced by the more accurate expression “sexually transmitted diseases”, is indebted to Thomas Aquinas, who, in the “quaestio” of Summa Theologica dedicated to lust (Summa Thelogica II^ IIae, q. 153), frequently uses expressions that refer to “venereal lust (ἀφροδισιαστικός)” such as “delectationes venereae”, “voluptates venereas”, “actus venereus”, “usus  venereorum”.

The Catechism is limited to a mere reference to the Declaration “Persona Humana” of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (end of 1975) that however treats the subject in a much more structured way.

The point n. 9 of the Declaration Persona Humana on masturbation is one of the most typical examples of closed dogmatic structure of Catholic morality.

The Declaration Persona humana approaches the topic “masturbation” recalling that: “The traditional Catholic doctrine that masturbation constitutes a grave moral disorder is often called into doubt or expressly denied today. It is said that psychology and sociology show that it is a normal phenomenon of sexual development, especially among the young.” The Church opposes these psychological or sociological theories only with its authority stating that “according to someone” that the Church considers certainly in error, in masturbation “there is real and serious fault only in the measure that the subject deliberately indulges in solitary pleasure closed in on self (“ipsation”), because in this case the act would indeed be radically opposed to the loving communion between persons of different sex which some hold is what is principally sought in the use of the sexual faculty.” Beyond the fact that the text expressly speaks of “persons of different sex,” it introduces a distinction, in the context of masturbation, between “heterosexual” affective masturbation and “ipsation”. The term “ipsation” (from the Latin “ipse” = myself) was coined by Magnus Hirschfeld and was used in the psycho-biological questionnaire to be filled from patients of the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin founded by Hirschfeld himself in 1919.

The question. 35 of the questionnaire was as follows: “Do you ever let yourself go to ipsation, i.e. to the satisfaction achieved through onanism? When did you start masturbating? How did you contract this habit? Have you been encouraged by people of your age or of different ages? From people of your same sex or different sex? Up to what age? With what intervals and what mental representations and how did you masturbate? If you are a woman, by external caresses or through the introduction of foreign objects in your body? Have you ever struggled against this trend? If so, by what means (vows, prayers, etc.) “.

The document Persona humana uses the term ipsation (now very rarely used by sexologists) to indicate a “solitary pleasure closed in on self” that would be the reason for the immorality of this “only” kind of masturbation. Obviously the Declaration does not consider any psycho-sexual topic and merely judges morally irrelevant the distinction between “heterosexual” affective masturbation, which implies at least a projective couple dimension, and ipsation i.e. the non-affective masturbation, as if it was that there is a dividing line between the two, and as if the question of the moral legitimacy of masturbation was reduced to this. The document points out that masturbation is still and always condemned by the Church for constant tradition and that whatever the reasons that induce certain indulgence toward affective masturbation: “This opinion is contradictory to the teaching and pastoral practice of the Catholic Church. Whatever the force of certain arguments of a biological and philosophical nature, which have sometimes been used by theologians, in fact both the Magisterium of the Church – in the course of a constant tradition – and the moral sense of the faithful have declared without hesitation that masturbation is an intrinsically and seriously disordered act.

The Document specifies the reason behind this judgment: “The main reason is that, whatever the motive for acting this way, the deliberate use of the sexual faculty outside normal conjugal relations essentially contradicts the finality of the faculty. For it lacks the sexual relationship called for by the moral order, namely the relationship which realizes “the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love.” All deliberate exercise of sexuality must be reserved to this regular relationship.” Whatever the value of the arguments to the contrary, the sentence is therefore bases its unfailing motivation on the teaching and tradition of the Church that legitimizes the use of the sexual faculty only in “normal conjugal relations“.

Very interesting is the evaluation of the significance of sociological research on the topic of masturbation, as proposed by the Vatican document: “Sociological surveys are able to show the frequency of this disorder according to the places, populations or circumstances studied. In this way facts are discovered, but facts do not constitute a criterion for judging the moral value of human acts.”

The Congregation in practice only paraphrases a document of Pope Paul VI, “If sociological surveys are useful to know the mentality of the environment and the concerns and needs of those to whom we proclaim the word of God, as well as the resistance that human reason could oppose in the modern age, with the widespread notion that does not exist outside of science, any legitimate form of knowledge, the findings of such investigations could never constitute in themselves a determinant criterion of truth.”(Paolo VI, Esort. apost. Quinque iam anni).

The Congregation goes to the identification of the causes of the frequency of masturbation as follows:

The frequency of the phenomenon in question is certainly to be linked with man’s innate weakness following original sin; but it is also to be linked with the loss of a sense of God, with the corruption of morals engendered by the commercialization of vice, with the unrestrained licentiousness of so many public entertainments and publications, as well as with the neglect of modesty, which is the guardian of chastity.

Then the document mentions the “modern psychology” although it is not clear to what it refers specifically:

On the subject of masturbation modern psychology provides much valid and useful information for formulating a more equitable judgment on moral responsibility and for orienting pastoral action. Psychology helps one to see how the immaturity of adolescence (which can sometimes persist after that age), psychological imbalance or habit can influence behavior, diminishing the deliberate character of the act and bringing about a situation whereby subjectively there may not always be serious fault. But in general, the absence of serious responsibility must not be presumed; this would be to misunderstand people’s moral capacity.”

It follows that masturbation is always objectively a serious fault but not always subjectively and it is for this reason that modern psychology can be useful to discern case by case. Clearly, modern psychology is regarded as legitimate as instrumental and compatible with Catholic morality. The Congregation provides also other criteria that go beyond the “modern psychology”:

In the pastoral ministry, in order to form an adequate judgment in concrete cases, the habitual behavior of people will be considered in its totality, not only with regard to the individual’s practice of charity and of justice but also with regard to the individual’s care in observing the particular precepts of chastity. In particular, one will have to examine whether the individual is using the necessary means, both natural and supernatural, which Christian asceticism from its long experience recommends for overcoming the passions and progressing in virtue.”

But let’s consider only the facts leaving aside moral prejudices.

That masturbation concerns basically all guys in adolescence, this fact is generally known and confirmed by all serious surveys carried out in this field. Masturbation in adolescence is very important:  gradually leads guys to the consciousness of their sexual orientation, determines the sexual archetypes, i.e. physical types of the people who induce a clear sexual response and sexual behaviors that will be considered to be more exciting all life long, creates and stabilizes the association between masturbatory fantasies and physiological reactions of erection and ejaculation.

Induce feelings of guilt related to masturbation in adolescents through moral prejudices means severely and negatively interfere with the maturation of their sexuality and with the formation of their moral sense, pushing them to neurotically react with a completely unnatural rejection of the masturbation, to consider masturbation as a vice which they must try in every way to get rid of, and to build a morality based on repression rather than liberty.

_______
If you like, you can join the discussion on this post on Gay Project Forum:

MY FATHER GAY

Hello Project,
I write for a very special reason that from several days now there’s a thing that causes me profound disturbance. I am a 19 years old guy and no doubt I’m straight, the problem is not about me but about my father. I state that I respect my father very much, he is a father really as it should. He and my mother got married because I was about to be born. When I was born my father was 22 years old and now he’s 41. I no longer have my mother since I was 11 years old and basically live alone with my father that takes care of everything. I have a real dialogue with him, when I had problems (including sexual ones) I resorted to him and he has always helped me. My girlfriend loves him because he has always made sure that she would feel comfortable in our home like in her own.

I go to the fact: from about six months my father has a little changed habits, before he never used to go out, now in practice he goes out every evening. “Out” means he’s out two or three hours. The first few times I did not mind, then I began to wonder: where is he going? But there were other strange things, sometimes his cell phone rang and he entered his room to answer and spoke softly and he never does so when speaking with people I know or even with relatives.

I had the curiosity to spy on him, but I never did because I would be ashamed to do such a thing. I began to think about what could induce my father to that behavior, the first thing was that he could see a woman, but I have never seen my father do compliment a woman and I do not even remember the relationship he had with my mother. For mom and for the mom’s things he has always had the greatest respect, as for me, but an intelligent respect, without fetishes of any kind. After all, if he intended to marry again no one could prevent him and for me it would not be shocking, that would be pleasing to him, and for this I would accept it and he knows it. So I discarded the idea of a woman.

There was a fact that has alarmed me. About a month ago my father introduced me to a colleague of his aged 35. In practice, it was completely random, Dad and I were walking around and we met this guy. Dad stopped and introduced me to his colleague, however, I had the distinct impression that my father was embarrassed and he stayed to talk with his colleague a few seconds too long, and in a way a bit embarrassed. That’s where I took the flash. Of course I didn’t even mention it, but even after I felt the embarrassment of Dad. In the days after he has calmed down but I kept thinking about that thing and the more I was thinking the more the idea that Dad and his colleague were not just colleagues was becoming clear. I do not know what they can be for each other, but are not just colleagues. I want to clarify that I do not feel upset to think that my father might be gay or to think that he and his colleague can be a couple (it could also be), what I do not like is that my father is forced to pretend with me because maybe he is afraid to tell me the truth.

I read in the forum many stories about the coming out of the guys to their parents, but never the other way and I think that if it’s embarrassing for a guy it might be even more so for a father who has to confess to his son that he’s gay. I have not sought evidence that my father is gay, I’m not going to search into his computer because he has never done so with mine, but I do not know what to do, that is, whether to tell him that I understood or to go on waiting for him to take the decision. I do everything for my father to feel at ease with me but I think on this specific point he will never feel comfortable.

I have read on the forum about gay married, so the situation that my father probably lives is not something so exceptional. I talk about it as if I had the certainty that things are indeed so, in fact I’m not sure, but the intuition takes me there. Project, from what I understand you are much older than my father, and perhaps such things have already happened to you and you could tell me what to do, because I love my father and the fact that it can be gay does not constitute any problem for me, I just want him to be happy and to feel free with me because I am proud that he is my father! I wait your response. If you want, you can post this message.
I am attaching my contact [omissis]
G.R.

_______
If you like, you can join the discussion on this post on Gay Project Forum: http://gayprojectforum.altervista.org/T-my-father-gay