Appendix 26: The Rubaiyats of John Buckland Wright (1897–1954) and Anthony Reid (1916–2003)

Prefatory Note: As in other sections of this archive, the illustrations can be browsed here.

The Golden Cockerel Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, illustrated by John Buckland Wright (hereafter JBW – for thus he signed his art work) was published in 1938 in a limited edition of 300 copies. Of these, copies numbered 31 to 300 were illustrated with 8 engravings, whilst those numbered 1 to 30 contained the same 8 engravings, but had 5 extra loose engravings contained in a pocket tucked inside the back of the book. As is well known, and as was typical of JBW’s book illustrations, the 8 standard illustrations were mildly erotic; the 5 extras considerably more so (1). In 1944 a pirated version of the special edition, Kwatrijnen van Omar Khayyam, with the verses translated into Dutch and using 11 of the engravings, was published by the Dutch Resistance Movement as a fund raiser, an act of piracy of which JBW is said to have approved, under the circumstances. Brief mention of this has already been made in Gallery 1C, Folder 5, and the present essay is an expansion on that. To save readers hopping back and forth, Figs.1, 2, 3 & 4 are from the regular Golden Cockerel edition; Figs.5 & 6 are from the additional 5 plates.

Many people do wonder about the justification for such erotic illustrations of The Rubaiyat. First of all, then, let us see what JBW himself had to say. In a letter to Christopher Sandford of the Golden Cockerel Press, dated 29th April 1937, JBW wrote:

I warn you I shall allow myself complete freedom in doing these illustrations. This is a case when a literal rendering is just as inappropriate as too much licence elsewhere. In other words, just as Fitzgerald (sic) made a poem that had very little to do with the original and yet achieved something more in the spirit of Omar than any translation could have produced, I shall try and make a visual poem, oriental in feeling and inspired by Fitzgerald but in no way a literal interpretation. This is just to let you know that you may expect almost anything. (2a)

In a lengthy postscript to another letter written to Christopher Sandford, dated 6th May 1937, JBW wrote:

I warned you once, Christopher, that I had very definite ideas on Omar, so definite that this time all your exhortations will fall on deaf ears, nor all your Piety nor Cant shall lure me back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears was out a word of it!!

The obvious way to illustrate the Rubaiyat is to do what everyone else has done in the thousand and one distressing editions that flood the bookshops at Christmas time. And that is to take any of the hundred visions called up by the text and make an illustration of it: ‘The Tavern door’. ‘The potter thumping his wet clay’ are typical examples. In other words to be literal, superficial and obvious. This is completely out of keeping with the original Omar and with the fundamental theme of the poem. It’s just pure common or garden cheap illustration. I prefer, as I told you before, to make another poem which exists on its own. A variation on a theme, if you like. And that after all is what Omar is. His whole Rubaiyat can be distilled with the literal translation of one of his quatrains:

Arise and give me wine – what time is this for words ?
For tonight thy little mouth fills all my needs
Give me wine, rose coloured as they cheeks,
For this penitence of mine is as full of tangles as thy curls. (2b)

The main theme will be represented by a couple in every plate, drinking, making love or in contemplation. The background will suit their mood and have an occasional reference to the verses opposite. The variety will be in the positions of the couple, the background and the rhythm of the underlying design. As an example and to show what I mean here is a rough idea of the rhythm of the figures and backgrounds of the plates in the text.

Plate 2 (which you have). The man with a book looking at nature while the girl pours wine. Background – ‘some strip of herbage’ in spring.

3. the man has drunk and the girl is about to drink. Background – the devastation of time – ‘the courts of Jamshyd.’ (Fig.1)

4. the man pours wine. Background ‘I came like water & like wind I go.’

5. drinking – both languid with wine – background horsemen in the distance recalling ‘the caravan starts for the dawn of nothing, O make haste’. (Fig.2)

6. Kissing. Background, the omnipresence of death and fate. (Fig.3)

7. the girl asleep. The man contemplates the heavens. Background – the rolling heavens. (Fig.4)

8 resignation and ‘the vine’. Background – the moon, and, once more, earth’s beauty.

The 4 specials are naturally love–making. (Figs.5 & 6) (2c)

Many people reading this will probably take issue with the contents of this letter – and on several fronts. In the first place, not “everyone else” has taken a “literal, superficial & obvious” approach to illustrating the Rubaiyat – Elihu Vedder, Mera K. Sett, Edmund J. Sullivan, Anne Harriet Fish & Isabel Hawxhurst Hall, for example, give much symbolic food for thought in their approaches. Secondly, whilst Edmund Dulac’s & René Bull’s illustrations might be seen as skilful but relatively dull literal interpretations, they arguably capture the essence of the verses more than JBW’s erotic fantasy, for there is certainly nothing in FitzGerald’s verses of a remotely erotic nature (3) – not even a hint that Omar & his beloved took their clothes off “beneath the bough”, let alone got drunk and had sex on the grass! JBW might regard his illustrations as “a variation on a theme”, but others would regard them as taking liberties with FitzGerald’s great work.

As regards JBW’s notes on the backgrounds of his illustrations, whilst one can see how that of Fig.1 represents the ruined Courts of Jamshyd, one wouldn’t really guess that Fig.2 relates to the caravan starting for the dawn of nothing without a bit of help. As for Fig.3, I’m not at all clear why its background signifies “the omnipresence of death & fate.” As for Fig.4, the picture gives the impression that Omar, like his Beloved, has passed out from too much wine, rather than that he is contemplating the rolling heavens.

Personally speaking, I cannot help but think that JBW’s enduring fascination for the shapely young female body has coloured his approach to The Rubaiyat (as appears also to have been the case with Ronald Balfour and John Yunge Bateman, for example, and to some extent Willy Pogany.) (4) His illustrations are more about the couple than the poem, the eight ordinary plates, like Figs.1–4 being the run–up to the erotic finale offered by the five specials, like Figs.5 & 6. [Browse illustrations here.] All the same, JBW’s Rubaiyat illustrations remain among my favourites, and I would agree with him that a lot of illustrated editions of The Rubaiyat have been relatively unimaginative productions churned out to satisfy the market, often at Christmas time.

In Gallery 1C mention was made of Anthony Reid’s very useful book A Check–list of the Book Illustrations of John Buckland Wright (1968), in which he tells us that JBW “had a particular fondness for this book and during 1941 he embellished one copy (now in the writer’s collection) with 71 original pen–drawings” (p.53; also p.21). One of these he reproduces as his plate VI, here reproduced as Fig.7. (Incidentally, the caption of Reid’s plate VI tells us that the extra–illustrated copy was no.190 out of 300.)

In fact, this unique volume was one of several which JBW extra–illustrated, as Reid tells us on his p.89:

The pleasure I took in his drawings prompted me to ask if he would extra–illustrate some books of my own choosing. This he readily agreed to do, and copies were duly bound with blank pages in readiness. But that, too, was in 1954 and regrets must always remain for what might have been. There is much consolation, though, in turning to the books I have that John did complete: Lover’s Progress, Omar Khayyam, Mademoiselle de Maupin and Daphnis; and in the hope that one day another of the extra–illustrated volumes may find its way to my shelves.

The year 1954, of course, was the year JBW died, and we shall encounter the other extra–illustrated books mentioned here later. (For details of others which JBW did and sold, see Check–List p.31.) Meanwhile, how did Reid come to do his Check–List and, more particularly, to know JBW so well that he could ask for (and almost get) some extra–illustrated books of his own choosing ?

Donald Gordon Anthony Reid was born in Wadebridge, Cornwall 8th February 1916 and died in Bournemouth, Hampshire on 8th October 2003. Somewhat curiously, though his full name appears on his death certificate, he is merely Donald Gordon Reid on his birth certificate. For the authorship of his books and articles, he used simply Anthony Reid, and he was known to friends and family as Tony. But in business matters (he was eventually to earn his main living as a bank manager) he seems to have been known as Donald. He served in the RAF during the Second World War, and subsequently published an autobiographical account of his wartime experiences, Laughter in the Sun (1952), in which he is known familiarly as Tony. It is not just another war book (as the publisher’s blurb carefully points out), but a readable account of Reid’s experiences of people and places during his wartime service in the Middle East, North Africa and Italy. Unfortunately, though perhaps not surprisingly, it tells us nothing about how Reid came to begin collecting books illustrated by JBW, but this must have been early on, for we know that he had compiled his first tentative check–list, based in the main on books from his own collection, fifteen years before it appeared in book form, and thus in 1953 (Check–List, p.88.) He must thereafter have sent it to JBW, who subsequently returned it to him, inscribed with a list of titles of which he had been previously unaware. (Check–List, p.88) Originally, it seems, the check–list was to have been an article for The Private Library, the journal of The Private Libraries Association, but as the project advanced – presumably with JBW’s input – David Chambers of the PLA suggested that it be turned into the book subsequently published by the PLA in 1968. JBW died in 1954, of course, and after that date Reid was greatly helped by JBW’s wife, Mary. In fact, Reid seems to have had little face to face contact with JBW before his death.

Given his enthusiasm for JBW’s explicit depictions of naked young women, one naturally expects that Reid had similarly strong heterosexual interests. But there is a twist to this tale, and all is not what it seems.

In 1953, and again in 1954, Reid had commissioned JBW to design two bookplates for him (5), the first of which is shown in Fig.8a. It shows two naked young boy athletes, one passing a torch to the other. The second is shown in Fig.8b, and shows a single naked young boy athlete bearing a torch. (We shall have more to say about the symbolism of this torch later.) Both bear the motto HO PAIΣ KALOΣ (the L should be Λ), meaning “The boy is beautiful”, a motto occasionally to be found on ancient Greek pottery. It is also found, for example, in the twelfth book of The Greek Anthology, the famous homoerotic Musa Paidike of Strato (Musa Puerilis in Latin, The Boyish Muse in English), where Callimachus is quoted as saying, “Beautiful is the boy, Achelous, passing beautiful; and if any say ‘Nay’ – let me alone know what beauty is.” (12.51) (6a) It is also a sentiment to be found in Laughter in the Sun where Reid, to give but two examples among several, describes his encounter, in a Turkish Bath, with “an Egyptian youth of about nineteen or twenty” who “had a perfect physique reminiscent of figures carved on the tombs at Karnak or Luxor” (p.17), and again when he admires the physique of two Senegalese negroes in a shower on a boat from Algiers to Corsica (p.105) [In fact, had the “tiresome” and “expurgating hand” of his publisher not interfered, Laughter in Sun would have contained much more such material! (7)]

Yet again, the cover of Check–List was decorated with a design by JBW (Fig.9 – see Check–List copyright page & p.31) whose legend KAΛON TE KAI AΓAΘON, inscribed around the head of a Greek athlete, means “Both beautiful and noble.” (The phrase is used, for example, in Plato’s Theaetetus 142B to describe the young man whose name the dialogue bears.)

The contrast of all this with Reid’s fondness for JBW’s usual output of erotically charged naked young women couldn’t be greater, of course, though it should be added that Laughter in the Sun also recounts a brief romantic encounter with a woman called Martine in Algiers (p.94ff) which reminds him of a similar encounter with another woman called Simone in Cairo (p.96). I should certainly add, too, that in 1954 Reid married Beatrice (Betty) Elliot Jackson and in 1957 they had a son, Phaon, a name from Greek mythology. (8)

But returning to his bookplates, the designs were presumably suggested by Reid himself in accordance with another of his collecting interests, and one which eventually bordered on obsession: homosexual literature, particularly poetry. His use of Greek inscriptions relating to beautiful boys reflects his approval of Greek Love, an “ideal” with Greek historical precedents and with an exemplar in Zeus who, with a wife Hera, and amongst numerous liaisons with other goddesses, nymphs and mortals, also became enamoured of the beautiful youth, Ganymede. (On an earthly plane, Lord Byron was but one who arguably followed in Zeus’s footsteps!) But ancient Greek (and subsequently Roman) precedents or not, such liaisons are now deemed by many to be merely a form of child sexual abuse, on a par with the heterosexual abuse of young girls. Be that as it may, and as we shall see later, Reid himself saw such relationships with boys through ancient Greek eyes, and it was eventually to lead to his downfall. But to return to literature, Reid owned a large collection of the volumes in the Loeb Classical Library whose principal purpose seems to have been to give him access to the homosexual literature of the Classical World, though of course he had to reach beyond the coyness frequently demonstrated by the translators of these ‘respectable’ texts. (6a & 6b ) We shall have more to say on Reid’s own knowledge of Greek and Latin later.

Reid’s collection of homosexual literature was considerably enlarged when, following the death of what we would now call the early gay rights campaigner George Cecil Ives (1867–1950) (9a), Reid bought all his books and papers from the executors. Quite how this came about is shrouded in some mystery, but it would appear that after Ives’s death, his collection remained in his house with one of the executors, Harold Bloodworth, a former footballer affectionately known as Pug, who also lived there, having been Ives’s partner – or one of them – for many years (9b). Bloodworth continued to live there until at least 1964, and at what stage Reid bought the collection isn’t clear. All we know is that the house smelled of melons, and that Reid expressed surprise that there were still several wartime gas–masks lying around! But at whatever stage Reid bought the collection, he retained the books but subsequently (in about 1977) sold some of the other material (letters and diaries – he found these “boring”) to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, and some of it (a collection of scrapbooks) to the Beinecke Library at Yale. The books retained by Reid formed the basis of a very large and comprehensive collection on homosexual themes.

Reid, who was, at least later in life, a bank manager by profession (as his father had been), was able to build up his collection to this extent by supplementing his income with a bit of judicious selling in the midst of the buying. Thus, for example, the Harry Ransom Center offered more for the Ives letters and diaries than the British Library did, and so to America they went. He also seems to have made a lot of money from buying and selling the works of Ralph Chubb, of whom more presently.

It is instructive to take a look of some of the books in Reid’s collection.

We know (10), for example, that he owned a copy of Rondeaux of Boyhood, a collection of Uranian poems by A. Newman, privately printed by Francis Edwin Murray in London in 1923. (A. Newman is possibly the pen–name of Murray himself.) Reid’s copy bears a bookplate (Fig.10a), designed by himself, but incorporating a design by Ralph Chubb (1892–1960) (11a), the eccentric homosexual poet, artist, printer, nudist, and self–proclaimed genius and prophet, about whom Reid wrote an appreciative two–part article in The Private Library in 1970. (11b) (In fact, Reid’s collection contained a large amount of material by Chubb, some of it obtained by somewhat dubious means, from Chubb’s sister, Chubb himself having been dead for some years.) (11c) He also owned a copy of Fantasies by “Philebus” (the pseudonym of John L. Barford), another volume of Uranian poetry privately printed by Francis Edwin Murray, also in 1923, again with the Chubb–based bookplate of Fig.10a. As a last example, Reid also possessed an extremely rare copy of a tale of homosexual activities set in rural France, Pédérastie Active by P.D.– Rast (a not–too–subtle pseudonym), published by the Société des Bibliophiles, London & Paris, 1907, again Reid’s copy bearing the bookplate of Fig.10a.

We should note, however, that Reid also owned a copy of Untrodden Fields of Anthropology, by an anonymous author, published in two volumes for private distribution only, by Librairie des Bibliophiles in Paris in 1896. It was subtitled “Observations on the Esoteric Manners and Customs of Semi–Civilised Peoples, Being a Record of Thirty Years Experience in Asia, Africa and America, by a French Army Surgeon”, and of course its discreet sale was on account of its sexual content. In addition to polygamy, polyandry and prostitution (both male and female), it covered unusual methods of copulation, venereal diseases, male and female homosexuality, sodomy, paederasty and bestiality – something for everyone, then. Yet again, Reid’s copy was adorned with the Chubb bookplate of Fig.10a. He also appears to have owned a copy of The Ragionamenti, or Dialogues of the Divine Pietro Aretino, literally translated into English, published in two volumes by Isidore Liseux in Paris in 1889 (type of bookplate not known.) This strange satirical work, in dialogue format, was subdivided into two parts, each of three subdivisions. In Part I Nanna and her friend Antonia discuss the sex–lives of Nuns, Married Women, and Courtesans, this by way of exploring which course might be best for Pippa, Nanna’s daughter. (The conclusion seems to be that since all three involve sex in one form or another, in the case of the first, with unscrupulous priests, of course, she may as well be a whore and get paid for it.) Part II is devoted to the sex–education of Pippa. In the first two subdivisions, Nanna explains to Pippa the whore’s trade and the wiles used by men in seducing women, whilst in the third subdivision the two of them listen as the Midwife and the Nurse discuss the bawd’s trade. So, given all this and his enthusiasm for JBW’s heterosexually explicit book illustrations (12a), we may conclude that Reid was, shall we say, interested in sex generally, though with particular leanings towards paederasty.

Incidentally, Fig.8b is the bookplate from Reid’s copy (now in my possession) of The Carmina of Caius Valerius Catullus, translated into English verse by Sir Richard Burton, with a prose translation, introduction and notes by Leonard C. Smithers, printed for Private Subscribers only by Smithers in London in 1894. As is well known, Catullus was bisexual, sometimes directing thousands of kisses to his lover ‘Lesbia’, a pseudonym for the somewhat promiscuous wife of another man (Catullus 5), and at other times directing them to his “honey–eyed” Juventius (Catullus 48.) And if it wasn’t Juventius, it was the “apple of my eye”, Licinius, who preoccupied him (Catullus 50.) It was Catullus, too, who penned what must surely be the most colourfully obscene homosexual insult in verse in the whole of classical literature. (6b)

But returning to Reid’s views on JBW’s illustrations for The Rubaiyat, and in particular those in the copy JBW embellished by hand, mentioned above, he wrote:

Throughout 1941, whenever leisure and opportunity allowed, JBW added seventy–one pen illustrations. The technique is so accomplished that the pictures seem, at first glance, to be copper engravings in perfect keeping with the book. Their subject matter is frankly erotic, far more so than would be acceptable in any commercial edition, but never pornographic. Indeed they are distinguished by good taste. Here are lovers entwined in every amorous posture, but the figures are gracious, the settings idyllic. Love, naked and unashamed, is shown to be truly lovely. (Check–List p.21)

However, Reid once told Timothy d’Arch Smith (hereafter Tim Smith), that the only illustrator to have correctly illustrated Omar was Stephen Gooden (‘Wooden Gooden’ he called him), for he portrayed the poet with a boy ‘in the wilderness.’ (Figs.11a & 11b) (13) This, of course, raises the homosexual / paederastic angle covered in Chapter 14 of the Main Essay, and one recalls ‘Baron’ Corvo’s homosexually coloured translation of The Rubaiyat covered in Appendix 15. Reid probably owned at least one edition of this – he had certainly read, and been unimpressed with, Corvo’s version, as we shall see later. The first Corvo edition was published in 1903, and the second, with an introduction by Edward Heron Allen (14) and illustrated by Hamzeh Carr, published in 1924. It would have been interesting to have Reid’s – and Corvo’s, had he lived (he died in 1913) – thoughts on Carr’s interpretations. Fig.12a shows Omar “with a Lover like an Houri” (v.82), the lover being at best androgynous, and Fig.12b shows him “surrounded by my Lovers” (v.371), the lovers being distinctly female. True, there is the traditional boy saki or wine–server in the background, but Omar is paying him no attention whatever. Unfortunately, if Reid ever saw Carr’s illustrations, he left no comment on them, or at least, none that has come to light. This in its turn brings us neatly back to Reid’s links with homosexual poetry.

Reid was a good linguist, and, as he tells us in Laughter in the Sun (p.124ff), led a somewhat hectic career as an interpreter during the war, mainly in French and Italian, but with some German, a smattering of Croat and another smattering of Arabic, this last at one point getting him into serious, though amusing, trouble in the slums of Cairo (ib. p.12–19.) His Italian was not as good as his French, though, for when his squadron adjutant suggested that he should give Italian lessons, he agreed, whilst thinking inwardly that he had better learn some more Italian himself first. (Laughter in the Sun, p.125.)

Be that as it may, Reid was subsequently to translate from Italian into English 55 of the homoerotic poems of Mario Stefani. Under the title No Other Gods this was published by Kouros Press [i.e. Old Stile Press, Monmouth: Kouros is Greek for Boy] in 1982. But this was merely the prelude to a much bigger project, for he went on to publish two volumes of his translations of homosexual verse, gathered from around the world and from all ages: The Eternal Flame – a World Anthology of Homosexual Verse (c.2000 BC – c.2000 AD.) As we shall see presently, the extent to which some of them were his translations, as opposed to paraphrases in verse of the translations of others, is debatable.

This was to be his magnum opus, and even for those with no particular interest in homosexual verse, it is a very impressive production. (The Eternal Flame, of course, relates to the torches carried by the naked young boy athletes in Figs.8a & 8b; see also the prefatory note included in both volumes, shown in Fig.13a.) Volume 1, which covered Greece, Italy, France, and the Islamic World, ran to 480 pages, and was published by Dyanthus Press, Elmhurst, New York in 1992 (Fig.13b). It was dedicated to “Renzo, most magical of boys.” Volume 2, which covered Britain, Europe, America and “Exotica”, ran to 578 pages, and was published by Asphodel, an associated imprint of Elysium Press, North Pomfret, Vermont, in 2002. (Fig.13c) It was dedicated to “Roland, unforgettable, unforgotten.” Neither of these boys features in Laughter in the Sun, incidentally, not even in an innocuous context, like Mario, “rather an attractive Sorrento lad of seventeen”, who performed a cabaret act in a Naples night–spot. (Laughter in the Sun, p.219–220) But then, as noted earlier, Laughter in the Sun was “expurgated” by his publisher (7), so who knows what was in there originally ?

As can be seen, then, the two volumes of The Eternal Flame (which bear the same logo as Fig.9, note) were both published in America, not England. As Reid put it, “attempts to find an English publisher were not successful” (Tim Smith tells me that he was turned down by Faber & Faber), adding that, though Britain has its outstanding qualities, “prudery still prevails.” (vol.1, p.11.) In addition, the two volumes were issued by different publishers a decade apart, and therein lies a story which will bring us back to that hand–illustrated Golden Cockerel Rubaiyat mentioned above, for, following Reid’s death in 2003 and the death of his wife, Betty, a few years later, this unique copy seemed to have disappeared from sight. JBW’s son, Christopher Buckland Wright, for example, had no idea where it was, and nor did a few other people I asked. It was only after a lucky contact with David Deiss, and, via David, made contact with Tim Smith, and, via Tim, with Frederic Koch, that the story fully unfolded.

In April 1985, in order to finance the publication of The Eternal Flame, Volume 1, Reid sold his unique copy of the JBW Rubaiyat, along with a collection of letters and four other volumes extra–illustrated by JBW (A Lover’s Progress, Mademoiselle de Maupin, The Decameron of Boccaccio, and Daphnis and Chloe: The Elizabethan Version, from Amyot’s translation by Angel Day) (15) to Frederick Koch of New York. The letters were subsequently re–sold by Hartung & Hartung in 2008 but the five books remained with Koch, and are still in his library today. In due course I hope to receive scans of the extra–illustrated Rubaiyat, and when I do (the book is not immediately accessible) these will appear, with commentary, in an Addendum to this article. (Now accessible here.)

In the meantime, returning to The Eternal Flame, Volume 1, on the first page of his Foreword (p.9) Reid describes himself as “an academic” who “obtained distinction in Classic and Modern Languages, and was awarded an Honours Degree at London University.” During the war, he says, he served in the RAF “as a Foreign Intelligence Officer and Master Interpreter.” Having read Laughter in the Sun I would regard his roles as Foreign Intelligence Officer and Master Interpreter as embellishments of the truth. That Master Interpreter is an exaggeration is made clear from the comments on his linguistic skills made above. He was a good linguist, but not a Master. Indeed, the closest he got to that exalted level during the war was when he dressed in a fake uniform and posed as “Monsieur Antoine, British Headquarters Interpreter for Free France and the Allied Nations” in order to get a group of Italian troops through a French check–point without having their belongings confiscated. (p.159).As for the title “Foreign Intelligence Officer”, that seems to be based on a single incident in Laughter in the Sun, chapter 17 (“Mediterranean Spy Hunt”), in which he helps to discover the source of a relatively minor leak of information when in Corsica. Finally, for one with a distinction in Classical Languages he struggles with a sentence in Latin on p.58 of Laughter in the Sun, so one does wonder how far he relied on his Loeb editions when compiling his anthology. He certainly kept one eye on the Loeb edition of The Greek Anthology (otherwise known as the Anthologia Palatina)(6a), for example, when it came to doing his own verse rendering of the whole of Strato’s Boyish Muse, though it is clear that he also kept his eye on other translations of it – see Eternal Flame vol.1, p.19–24. His account suggests that he did do a detailed study of the text, and that he did do some translation of his own (p.24–6), but the extent to which the end results are Reid’s own translations, as opposed to his paraphrases of the translations of others, is, as stated earlier, debatable. So as not to interrupt the flow, we will examine some of Reid’s ‘translations’ in footnotes – from the Greek of Strato in note (16a) and from the Latin of Catullus in note (16b). It is interesting that Reid doesn’t specifically state in what subject he gained an Honours Degree, and in fact it turns out that it was in English. Enquiries revealed that Donald Gordon Reid (note the lack of Anthony, as on his birth certificate) registered for what we would now call an external degree in September 1952. He was awarded the degree of Bachelor of Arts in English with Second Class Honours (Upper Division) in August 1955. It would seem likely then that Reid’s “distinction in Classic and Modern Languages’ was obtained at school, not university – hence the phrasing in his Foreword.

But getting back to the contents of The Eternal Flame, Volume 1, we have, in his Introduction to the section on Greece (p.15–8), Reid’s extolling of Greek Love and his admiration for the form of the naked boy, “the very acme of perfection” in Greek art, openly displayed at the great athletic games. (Recall Figs.8a & 8b.) Warriors and their boy lovers went into battle together – he gives Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad as an example – and Heracles had no less than ten boy lovers to his credit, we are told. Zeus had Ganymede, and Apollo had Hyacinthus. “Prometheus,” Reid tells us, “is reputed to have stolen fire (Greek flame, boy love) from the Gods as the greatest gift to man” (hence again, perhaps, the torches in Figs.8a & 8b.) (17a) Plato, Socrates, Pindar, Aristotle, Sophocles, Euripides and Plutarch (Reid’s list is longer) were all homosexual. Reid writes:

It can be persuasively argued that all the ‘glory that was Greece’ (that multi–faceted genius which made Greek civilisation the greatest which the world has ever known) derives directly from this homosexual drive. This was the factor which drew from every great man his greatest effort and inspiration. It was this Greek Flame from which masterpieces were forged: this love – surpassing the love of women – which Prometheus stole from the Gods, so as to make gods of men. (p.17)

One cannot help but think that Reid has got a bit carried away here, and that heterosexuals must have made some contributions to Greek civilisation here and there. Be that it may, when it comes to ancient Rome we find homosexuality similarly rampant. After a brief literary tour of The Satyricon and The Golden Ass (p.159), we are treated to a whistle–stop tour of the homosexual activities of no less than 22 Roman Emperors (p.160–2), though in the case of some of them – Caligula, Nero, Commodus and Elagabalus – we might wonder whether Prometheus did the world any favours. The Roman Gods, of course, had picked up many of the tastes of their Greek equivalents, so there are no surprises for us there. (p.162–3) Among the poets, Ovid “was mainly a ladies’ man, but he also had love–affairs with several boys”; Catullus and Martial were bisexual; Virgil was “especially given to passion for boys”; and Horace “was obsessed with the elegant serving–boys in rich houses.” (p.163–6.) Yet again, then, heterosexuals put in a poor showing.

All this, though, is of particular interest to us here as background to Reid’s homoerotic Rubaiyat. In direct contrast to JBW’s heterosexually explicit extra–illustrations of The Rubaiyat which went to finance it, we have what are supposed to be Reid’s own translations of 12 quatrains of Omar Khayyam (p.331–2.) How far they can be said to be Reid’s own translations is questionable, and indeed he readily admits to getting help here and there with the Islamic section of the book (p.10, p.279.) Also we know from Laughter in the Sun that his Arabic was “scanty and ungrammatical” (p.12), and so presumably his Persian was of a similar standard. To add further to the mix, he doesn’t actually say which Persian manuscript he used in translating, if translate he did, his selection of Omar’s quatrains. As we shall see presently, it appears highly likely that Reid did no actual translating at all, with or without help, but instead paraphrased somebody else’s translations. First, though, here is what Reid has to say about The Rubaiyat, and, coincidentally, about Baron Corvo’s translation:

Persians adored rigid verse forms. Let us consider the simplest: rubaiyat (i.e. quatrains). The four lines commonly rhyme AABA so that the ear, cheated of an expected cadence at line 3, is gratified by its return with the final word of line 4. This effect can be very pleasing.

English readers will be familiar with Edward Fitzgerald’s (sic) version of the Rubaiyat of OMAR KHAYYAM. This reproduces the above rhyme–scheme and is a pleasure to read. Unfortunately it departs a great deal from the text. No one would ever suspect, for example, that of Omar’s 252 disconnected quatrains at least 40 are about boys. (18)

A more literal version was issued by A.J. Arberry in 1952. But he made every quatrain into eight lines, rhyming ABBA CDDC. This is very tedious. (Imagine an 8–line clerihew, or a ten line limerick).

There are also many other versions. All are unsatisfactory. The worst is possibly that by ‘Baron Corvo’ (ie Fr. Rolfe) based on the French of Nicolas. He has 464 ‘items’ – one cannot call them quatrains – rendered in elephantine prose; and most of them are false. (p.326)

This mention of A.J.Arberry’s Omar Khayyam – a New Version based upon recent Discoveries (1952) gives the clue as to Reid’s source for his ‘translations’, as was first spotted by Douglas Taylor, whilst I was still looking for a translation with parallel English and Persian texts which Reid might have used. Arberry’s translation, which had no parallel Persian text, is now known to be that of the forged so–called Cambridge Manuscript. It contained 252 quatrains (= the number of “disconnected quatrains” mentioned in the above quote from Reid), each quatrain translated by Arberry as a verse–pair, also as noted by Reid, thus giving 504 English quatrains, all told. Reid’s 12 quatrains are numbered, in order of reading, 119, 30, 160, 99, 146, 49, 161, 195, 184, 239, 221 & 207, the ordering being presumably to undo some of the ‘disconnectedness’ of the original and to produce a coherent sequence of boy–related quatrains. Each of Reid’s quatrains can certainly be seen as a paraphrase of the correspondingly numbered verse–pair in Arberry’ translation, and the fact that Arberry’s book does not contain the original Persian rather implies that, unless Reid had access to the original Cambridge Manuscript, then his quatrains can be nothing more than paraphrases. [Examples of Arberry’s originals are given in note (19a) below.] But despite this, they do represent Reid’s reading of the quatrains, even if he has cheated a bit on the translation front.

As we saw earlier, Reid’s own Rubaiyat preference was to have Omar’s beloved a male, and not just a male, but a boy. As Reid put it, in his note on Omar, “He was a boy–lover and a wine–lover, though most translations disguise the first fact and some even substitute ‘girl’ for ‘boy’.” (p.327) Actually, there is some evidence that in his version, Reid sometimes substituted ‘boy’ for ‘girl’, and where the sex of the beloved wasn’t specified, opted for a boy! Examples will be given in what follows, with fuller details being given in note (19b).

To begin, then, here is Reid’s Quatrain 161:

Grant me a loaf of bread, and then allow
A jug of wine, a haunch of meat and thou,
Sweet loving boy, beside me in the waste;
And that waste land were Paradise enow.

Note the use of FitzGerald’s format here, and indeed of FitzGerald’s archaic “enow” (v.11 of his first edition; v.12 of subsequent editions.) According to Reid, this format enabled FitzGerald to translate Omar “into melodious verse – not into the boring unreadable stodge of pompous scholars.” (p.277) Thus Reid retained the format, whilst decrying the many errors of FitzGerald’s translation and the fact that in it “all the boy quatrains have been camouflaged or omitted.” (p.277) Arberry’s original for this verse is given in note (19a). As can be seen there, this is one of Reid’s sex–change verses, for his “sweet loving boy” was “a maid refusing not my kiss” in Arberry’s original.

Here is another of Reid’s quatrains (no.207), this time more homosexually explicit:

My boy, I have one secret hope, and who
But you, my dearest, should I tell it to?
When I, your lover, die my wish will be
To wake from death and still make love to you.

In Arberry’s original, the sex of Omar’s beloved is not specified, but Reid has clearly decided that a boy is intended.

His quatrain 99 is likewise homosexually explicit:

Arise, my sweet delightful loving boy,
Wake up and greet the dawn with wine. Let’s joy
In one another’s loving while we may
Before sad Death can darken and destroy.

Reid’s “sweet delightful loving boy” corresponds to Arberry’s “simple, silly, pretty boy”, so Reid is here faithful to his original.

Next, here is his quatrain 146 – a Royal example of, and precedent for, paederasty:

Death takes us all and blots out everything:
Ayaz, the darling boy, and Mahmud, king –
So let us make love and be topers now,
Who can report that dead men laugh or sing ?

The reference here is to Sultan Mahmud and his favourite boy, Ayaz. Arberry, in his celebrated book The Romance of the Rubaiyat (1959), a book which Reid once heartily recommended to Tim Smith, thought that the “Slave and Sultan” of FitzGerald’s v.10 “recalls rather the celebrated passion of Mahmud for his slave boy Ayaz, frequently cited by the Persian poets as an instance of the unpredictable vagaries of human love.”(p.200) – see also verse 10 in my Verse by Verse Notes. That this is not at all unlikely is shown by Arberry’s line “King Mahmud and his favourite boy” in his verse–pair 146.

Next, in an Omarian justification of paederastic desires, we have Reid’s quatrain 119:

I live for wine and boys, and you cry “Reprobate!”
Your choice is church. I sin outside the gate.
Blame not this fault – my failings were all drawn
By the Great Artist in the Book of Fate. (17b)

Reid’s “wine and boys” is “wine and the beloved” (sex not specified) in Arberry’s original, for which see note (19a). Here again, then, Reid has clearly decided that a boy beloved is intended.

And here, in Reid’s quatrain 160, is more Omarian justification for paederasty, this time with the boy equivalent of the houris promised to the righteous in Paradise:

In Paradise angelic boys, men vow,
Provide the Blest with love and wine. Then how
If boys and wine are all right after death,
Can wine and boys be wrong in this world now?

In Arberry’s original, though, Reid’s “angelic boys” are “dark–eyed maidens of delight” – the traditional houris – and so this is another of Reid’s sex–change verses. But getting back to Reid’s version, he writes:

There is a widespread belief that, in Paradise, there will be troops of beautiful boys (known as Ghilman or Wuldan) expressly provided to satisfy all sexual desires of true Believers. This belief is not supported by religious doctrine. Nevertheless the belief is widely held. (p.283)

This view of ghulam (plural ghilman) / walad (plural wuldan) appears to be more of a homosexual fantasy than an Islamic licence for paederasty in Paradise, in much the same way as the houri has become a heterosexual fantasy of which there is no promise in the Quran (see the note on houris at the end of the notes on Gallery 1.) One can see how the belief has come about, though, for the wuldan in Surah 56.17–18 of the Quran are clearly the sakis of the afterlife, and though some Moslems might turn a blind eye to homosexual practices in this life, many others would agree with one internet commentator and regard the likes of Reid’s interpretation of the Quranic wuldan as “deviant thinking.” The Quran is quite clear: those men who lust after men in preference to the women provided by God are transgressors (Surah 7.81.) All the more reason then to follow the advice of his quatrain 49:

Let wise friends celebrate your drinking–night;
Let willing, pink–faced boys grant you delight;
But let discretion govern your desires,
And always keep your orgies out of sight.

Here Reid is faithful to Arberry’s original (for which see note (19a)) – his “willing, pink–faced boys” being Arberry’s “happy, laughing boy / In whose soft cheeks the roses bloom.”

One inevitably wonders at this point, given Reid’s reference to keeping one’s orgies “out of sight”, how much Reid’s wife (who seems to have been universally liked by those who met her) knew about her husband’s paederastic tendencies, and indeed about his collection of homosexual literature and the publication of The Eternal Flame. Reid once told Tim Smith that his wife knew all about his book collection, but Tim remained somehow unconvinced, as conversations so often changed subject whenever Betty Reid entered the room. Thus Tim wasn’t surprised when Reid later confessed to him that she had probably known nothing at all, though it is difficult to believe that she could have been totally unaware that something odd was going on, and that there wasn’t at least some element of her turning a blind eye in it all. Again, when Jeffrey Weeks visited Reid to view some of the collection, the viewing took place behind the locked door of Reid’s study, and a locked study door must surely have aroused some wifely suspicions in Betty Reid.

Unfortunately, it was more than homosexual literature that lurked behind Reid’s study door, and it was this that led to his exposure and downfall. In a dawn raid on his house in March 1995, part of a nation–wide clamp–down on child pornography, Reid was arrested and a large amount of paedophile material was seized, including magazines, videos, drawings and photographs. Reid was tried before Poole magistrates in August 1995, and was fined £3600, despite his plea that he needed such material for research purposes. (20) However much Betty Reid knew before the trial, one cannot but feel sympathy for her in view of what she must have suffered after these revelations.

Even so, this did not deter Reid from pressing on with The Eternal Flame, Volume 2, which was published seven years later and financed by David Deiss on Reid’s legal arrangement to bequeath him a substantial portion of his library after his death. Hence it was published by Deiss’s Asphodel / Elysium Press, as mentioned above, and hence many of his books came to be offered for sale by Elysium Books, as in note 10 below. Whilst it unsurprising to find work by Oscar Wilde, ‘Baron Corvo’ and Lord Byron in the British section, the inclusion in an anthology of homosexual poetry of parts of Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” (p.50) and Robert Browning’s poem “May and Death” (p.51), for example, is questionable. Reid clearly had a sense of humour, though, for he includes no less than fifteen homoerotic limericks (p.178–180) in his collection. The least explicit of these enables us to finish on a humorous (?) note:

A kept ‘boy–de–luxe’ in Verona
Lost his friend but, not being a moaner,
Wrote a classified ad.
With, “FOR SALE – Modern Lad,
Run–in, but low mileage – one owner.”


Note 1: All of JBW’s Rubaiyat engravings, including a rejected design, can be found in Christopher Buckland Wright’s excellent study, Sensuous Lines – A Catalogue Raisonné of the Intaglio Prints of John Buckland Wright (The Fleece Press, 2014), p.121–131.

Note 2a: Some of the correspondence between JBW and Christopher Sandford was published in an article by Roderick Cave, “A Restrained but Full–Blooded Eroticism”, which appeared in Matrix Vol 8, 1988, pp 55–75. The letter quoted here is on p.61.

Note 2b: This is quoted from Edward Heron–Allen, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, being a Facsimile of the Manuscript in the Bodleian Library Oxford, with a Transcript into Modern Persian Characters (1898), quatrain 16 (p.3 & p.132–5.)

Note 2c: Cave p.62–3. An edited version of this is also quoted in Sensuous Lines, p.121.

Note 3: See the Main Essay, chapter 6 on the misplaced erotic reputation of The Rubaiyat.

Note 4: See Gallery 1C for Balfour (Folder 2), Bateman (Folder 4) and Pogany (Folder 3).

Note 5: These are listed, and illustrated, in Sensuous Lines p.223 (1953) & p.245 (1954), and Reid mentions them on Check–List p.27–8. That in Fig.8b can also be found in Mark Severin & Anthony Reid, Engraved Bookplates: European Ex Libris 1950–70 (1972), p.44.

Note 6a: The translation used here is that of W.R. Paton published in five volumes in the Loeb Classical Library, 1916–1918, but with many reprints. Of particular relevance to this essay are the Amatory Epigrams in Book 5 (vol.1) and Strato’s anthology, Musa Puerilis, in Book 12 (vol.4). Paton seems to have used the Latin title Musa Puerilis in preference to its English equivalent of “The Boyish Muse” to disguise its homoerotic connotations, and indeed in places he translates the original Greek text into Latin, not English, to soften the blow, as it were, of its more explicit content – thus, for example, 12.3 & 12.225, both being Strato’s own poems. As Paton says in his prefatory note to Book 12 (p.280–1), “Strato himself is frankly homosexual. He writes good and at times pretty verse, but he is, as a rule, quite terre à terre, and often very gross.” Quite how some of the poems escaped the Latin treatment, though, is a puzzle. For example, in plain English, we find in another of Strato’s own poems, “Yesterday I had Philostratus for the night, but was incapable, though he (how shall I say it ?) was quite complaisant.” (12.11) Interestingly, Paton writes (again in his prefatory note), “These homosexual attachments were a notable feature of Greek and Roman life and were spoken of frankly, since they were not then regarded as disgraceful, being indeed rather fashionable.” [For those not familiar with it, to summarise part of Paton’s prefatory note, Strato’s “Boyish Muse” was probably originally a collection of just his own homoerotic poems, but then some later anthologist added to it various poems of a similar nature by other authors, notably Meleager. See also The Eternal Flame, vol.1, p.15]

Note 6b: The first two lines of Catullus 16 have proved a real headache for translators. In the Loeb Classics edition of 1924, for example, the Latin lines are there but Francis W, Cornish simply does not translate them, denoting their presence by a simple row of dots in his translation. In the 1894 translation by Sir Richard Burton & Leonard Smothers, Burton’s verse rendering of the offending lines is: “I’ twain and.../ Pathic Aurelius! Furius, libertines!” Smithers’ prose rendering reads thus: “I will paedicate and irrumate you, Aurelius the bardache and Furius the cinnaede.” In his note on p.301–2, Smithers likens these lines to “certain brutal exclamations common in the mouths of the English vulgar”, though one doubts that the English vulgar would use quite the same words that Smithers uses in his translation. For those who want the sordid details in modern English terms, googling Catullus 16 will provide the necessaries!

Note 7: This information is taken from a letter from Reid to Tim Smith, the letter accompanying a presentation copy of Laughter in the Sun. The letter is of sufficient interest to merit reproducing here as Fig.14. Though undated, Tim thinks that it was probably written in about 1962. Note that the letter–head uses the design of Fig.9 several years before it was used on the cover of Check–List.

Note 8: In Greek mythology, Phaon was an old and ugly boatman who was made young and beautiful by Aphrodite after ferrying her across the sea and refusing to accept any payment for it. Some time later, the Lesbian poetess Sappho fell in love with him, and leapt off a cliff when he slighted her.

Note 9a: In 1897 Ives was the founder of the Order of Chaeronea, a secret society for homosexuals. Later, in 1914, he was one of the founder members of The British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology whose aim was to promote the scientific study of, and tolerance towards, sexual conduct of all types, including, of course, homosexuality, transvestism and what we would now call gender issues.

Note 9b: For Ives’s somewhat strange domestic arrangements, see Matt Cook’s Queer Domesticities – Homosexuality and Home Life in Twentieth–Century London (2014), chapter 3.

Note 10: From listings on Abe Books, principally those of Elysium Books, of Norwich, Vermont, who acquired much of Reid’s collection on his death. Many of his books, though, went to other book dealers as well, and can be traced via mentions of Reid’s bookplates in their respective sales lists.

Note 11a: The design was one associated with Chubb’s strange work, Flames of Sunrise: A Book of the Man Child concerning the Redemption of Albion, privately published in an edition of 25 copies in 1953. (It is used in the prospectus shown in Fig.10b.) Chubb himself described it on the back of this prospectus as “a prophetic book” and “a book of personal mysticism.” It clearly owed much to William Blake, both as regards its theme, style, and some of its illustrations.

Note 11b: Under the title “Ralph Chubb, the Unknown” it was published in the Second Series, Part 1 featuring in vol.3, no.3 (Autumn 1970), p.141–156, and Part 2 in vol.3, no.4 (Winter 1970), p.193–213. The former covered Chubb’s life; the latter covered his work, and consisted largely of a check–list of Chubb’s privately published works, as well as of articles by him, or about him. The cover of the issue containing the former (Fig.10c) bore the design of Figs.10a & 10b. The two articles were also put together in booklet form under the title Ralph Chubb, the Unknown, a Checklist and Extensively Expurgated Biography (1970). It was a limited edition of 200 copies, printed for the author, by the Private Libraries Association, and today is considerably rarer than the issues of the journal in which the original article appeared.

Note 11c: The story was told to me by Tim Smith, after I had asked him if he had known Chubb personally:

I didn’t know Chubb nor was I the one to discover him. That was done in an article by a printing historian, Roderick Cave, ‘Blake’s Mantle, a Memoir of Ralph Chubb,’ published in 1960 in a magazine called Book Design and Production. I wrote to the address Cave gave as Chubb’s and had an enthusiastic reply from his sister Muriel. A bookseller friend Victor Hall and I drove down to Chubb’s cottage fairly frequently and began to buy pamphlets, proof sheets, and drawings etc. from Muriel (Ralph had died), some duplicates of which we sold to Reid. Muriel was delighted that someone was interested in her brother’s work and intended to make me Ralph’s literary executor. In 1961 the bookshop where I worked held an exhibition of private press books and Muriel came up to London and was thrilled to find two of her brother’s books on show, Manhood and The Heavenly Cupid, exotically bound in its original black corduroy boards.

About that time Reid – who’d never heard of Chubb until I came along – expressed a desire to meet her and motored me down to the Berkshire village where she lived. The next thing I knew was he had bought Muriel an expensive (so he said) wristwatch and had got her to inscribe all remaining manuscripts and papers over to him with effusive inscriptions (this was not an easy task for her to do because her sight was very poor) giving her a promise he would exhibit everything in a Ralph Chubb Memorial Museum. Thus was instigated a bad–tempered correspondence between me and Reid where I asked to be alerted to the museum’s opening hours and enquired whether there would be a parking space for charabancs, etc., etc. Muriel’s letters to me are at Cornell University together the proof sheets (so far as it went) of my hand–list to the printed work of Ralph Chubb, the basis of course of Reid’s check–list.

Then when my book on Uranian poetry, Love in Earnest, came out in 1970 Reid wrote me a conciliatory letter congratulating me on my research etc., etc. By then The Times bookshop I worked in had been shut down by the new proprietor of the newspaper and I started bookselling on my own account. It became clear I could no longer collect books and make a living out of selling them and I began to break up the library I’d assembled to write Love in Earnest. I sold my Chubb collection to Reid. It was a fabulous assembly, every copy hand–coloured where such was issued, original drawings, wood–blocks, manuscripts, etc. By then Reid had put together two further decent collections of his own to which was added the stuff he had inherited from Muriel Chubb who had died in 1970 I think. Koch has one of those two collections (I introduced Koch to Reid), another is in the Museum Meermanno in the Hague. The third collection was disposed of by Deiss.

There is an interesting write–up about Chubb in the Appendix of Tim’s excellent study Love in Earnest – Some Notes on the Lives and Writings of English ‘Uranian’ Poets from 1889 to 1930 (1970), p.219–232. Reid’s appreciation of Love in Earnest was expressed on p.21 of Eternal Flame, vol.1 (“an incomparable book on English Uranian poets 1889–1930.”)

Note 12a: For those not familiar with JBW’s output generally, examples galore can be found in Christopher Buckland Wright’s various catalogues of his father’s work, of which Sensuous Lines, cited in note 1 above, is an excellent example. As with The Golden Cockerel Rubaiyat, the extras tend to be more explicitly erotic than the mainstream illustrations. The Golden Cockerel edition of Gautier’s Mademoiselle de Maupin (1938) is a good example, for which see Sensuous Lines p.108–117. Sometimes JBW didn’t wait for extra plates to let his imagination run wild – all eight of JBW’s plates in Chrysilla von Dansdorf’s Heart’s Desire (1939), a tale of a group of lesbians living on an island near Lesbos, are erotic by any standard (Figs.15a & 15b are examples) – see Sensuous Lines p.133–138. (12b) Like Reid, JBW had a fondness for Classical themes. For the Golden Cockerel Press he illustrated F.L. Lucas’s translation from Latin of the anonymous Pervigilium Veneris: The Vigil of Venus (1939) (eg Fig.16) and another of Lucas’s translations, this time from Greek, of Musaeus’s Hero and Leander (1949) (eg Fig.17). Being Golden Cockerel Press editions, both are liberally sprinkled with erotic illustrations, of course – for the former see Sensuous Lines p.141–150; for the latter see Sensuous Lines p.175–182. JBW extra–illustrated copies of both – for the former see Check–List p.54–5; for the latter see Check–List p 66. Away from the Golden Cockerel Press, JBW’s illustrations of the Classics became more conventional – as, for example, his illustrations for the Folio Society editions of Lucas’s translations of The Odyssey (1948) and The Iliad (1950) – see Sensuous Lines p.162–172 & p.192–8 respectively. But Folio Society or not, when it came to Boccaccio’s Decameron (1954 & 1955) a degree of eroticism inevitably crept in (eg Fig.18) – see Sensuous Lines p.247–265.

Some of JBW’s unpublished drawings, skilfully executed as they are, do arguably border on the pornographic. (12c) Thus he did several ‘restrained’ engravings relating to the Judgement of Paris (Sensuous Lines p.201–4 (Fig.19a is an example) which are arguably no more than modern versions of Rubens’ well–known painting on the same theme. But then JBW took the theme to its erotic extreme in the unpublished drawing in pencil and crayon shown in Fig.19b, and one can’t imagine that hanging alongside Rubens in the National Gallery! Again, JBW had a fascination for satyrs and nymphs. Fig.20a is a ‘restrained’ example featuring a satyr uncovering a sleeping nymph. This can be found in Christopher Buckland Wright’s Endeavours & Experiments – John Buckland Wright’s Essays in Woodcut and Colour Engraving, together with Other Blocks remaining in his Studio (The Fleece Press, 2004), p.36, where there is a short article on JBW’s fascination with the theme. The unpublished drawing in pencil and watercolour shown in Fig.20b takes the theme to an erotic extreme, replacing the nymph with two young, presumably pubescent, girls, whilst Fig.20c, an engraving with graphite, adds an amusing dimension to this erotic theme. For JBW’s relatively restrained illustrations for Mallarmé’s L'Après–midi d’un Faune, see Sensuous Lines, p.274–8.

After a diet of such erotic material as some of the foregoing it comes as a great surprise to find that in 1931 JBW produced five illustrations for Twelve Songs for Helen, nursery rhymes set to music by Quincy Porter (unpublished) and that he illustrated Cassell’s Picture Dictionary for children, compiled by Mary Waddington, and published in 1952. A sample page is shown in Fig.21. (See Endeavours & Experiments - for the former, see p.14–6, plate 5 & plates 8–11, and for the latter see p.16 & plate 6. Also of interest for their contrast with erotica, are his Café Dansant scenes – see ibid. p.10–13 & plate 18 on p.68.)

Note 12b: Heart’s Desire is a curiosity. The story was actually written by Christopher Sandford, but was represented as being based on a Greek original, discovered by a mysterious German doctor, and translated for him by Chrysilla von Dansdorf. Actually, Dansdorf was an anagram of Sandford, and Chrysilla if not obscurely derived from Christopher, perhaps owes its origin to The Greek Anthology (5.3), where we read, “The day has broken, Chrysilla, and for long early–rising chanticleer is crowing to summon envious dawn” (6a), chanticleer relating to the Golden Cockerel Press, of course. Sandford pretended that it was the German doctor who had approached him with regard to publication. The book was printed in England, but for fear of prosecution, its title page billed it as “Issued in Paris for private circulation only.” For more details see David Chambers’ article, “Heart’s Desire: Sandford & Buckland Wright” in The Private Library, Sixth Series, volume 3:2 (Summer 2010), p.52–69. Chambers refers briefly (p.60) to a single extra–illustrated copy of the book which JBW did, and in which he went over–the–erotic–top even by his standards: in one illustration one of the women is being “molested by an excited wolf” whilst another is “being advanced upon by Priapus in similarly obvious condition.” (12c) Reid briefly mentions this in Check–List, p.31 & p.53–4.

Note 12c: Tim Smith told me that in about 1965 he actually found one of JBW’s extra–illustrated Golden Cockerel Press books, Swinburne’s Laus Veneris, being rented out by a ‘rude book’ shop in the Fulham Road – ie a newsagent with ‘material’ behind the counter! Alerted to its presence by Victor Hall, a friend of his who owned a small antique shop nearby, after some negotiation, Tim rescued it – “I paid fifteen guineas for it,” he told me. How it got there, alas, Tim was unable to tell me. “I do know that sometimes those shops got hold of quite rare books and hired them out. The Fulham Road was a funny area in those days – the Aetherius Society (flying saucers) was nearby, and there was a camera shop run by a Mr Jim Goater. ‘Why Mr Goater Gets My Goat’ was a headline in the Sunday People one week.”

Note 13: Fig.11a is the frontispiece, but clearly relates to v.11 (of the 1st edition). Fig.11b faces p.42, bearing verses 50 & 51 of the same, the illustration not being literally applicable to either, but clearly indicating the transience of human life and happiness, given the figure of Death in the background.

Note 14: Heron–Allen’s involvement with this edition, of which he disapproved on account of Corvo’s tendency to give a homosexual slant to his translation, is covered in Appendix 15.

Note 15: A Lover’s Progress was an unillustrated book of erotic 17th century lyrics by Donne, Herrick, Dryden and others, published by the Golden Cockerel Press, in a limited edition of 215 copies, in 1938. JBW embellished this copy with some 51 original pen and ink drawings, these including 3 full, 21 half– or three–quarter page, and 27 vignettes and tailpieces. The colophon has been extended by 2 lines in mss “49 drawings by JBW made in 1940 with frontispiece and colophon in 1942.” [See also Check–List p.21 & p.89; JBW did another embellished copy of this – see Check–List, p.31.]

Théophile Gautier’s Mademoiselle de Maupin, illustrated by JBW, was published in a limited edition of 500 copies by the Golden Cockerel Press in 1938. Copies 1 to 50 contained 12 engravings; copies 51 to 500 contained 8. This copy is no. 3, and is extra–illustrated by the addition of 20 original pen and ink drawings, 8 of them full–page. The colophon has been extended in mss by the artist to read “with 20 drawings by JBW made May–July 1941,” initialled and signed. The vignette on the colophon has been drawn in two colours of ink to match the title page. [According to Reid (Check–List p.49–50), JBW extra–illustrated five copies of this (numbered 3, 52, 55, 69 & 500) with original drawings in pen & ink and wash, adding that, “these differ greatly in number and nature of illustrations.” Reid’s Plate IV is from the copy given to him by JBW, & subsequently sold to Koch.]

The Decameron of Boccaccio translated into English by John Payne, published in two volumes for private circulation by The Villon Society, London 1886. The margins of the book are hand–illustrated by JBW with over 100 frankly erotic ink drawings, often humorous and quite in keeping with the more bawdy nature of the text. [See Check–List, p.31.]

Daphnis and Chloe: The Elizabethan Version, from Amyot’s translation by Angel Day. It was reprinted from the unique original, edited by Joseph Jacobs, and published by David Nutt in the Strand in 1890. This copy, one of sixty signed and numbered by the publisher, has been illustrated by the addition of 187 original pen, ink and wash drawings by JBW. The limitation signature has been extended by the artist to read “with one hundred and eighty–seven drawings by JBW made at Hampstead, South Kensington and High Barnet from September 1940 to Easter Day, April 5th 1942,” in italic script with his usual signature. [See also Check–List, p.22 & p.89. Reid’s Plate XI is from the copy given to him by JBW, & subsequently sold to Koch.]

Note 16a: Strato: We know that Reid had and used copies of (i) the Loeb edition of Strato, translated into prose by W.R. Paton, as detailed in note 6a above; (ii) Anthologia Palatina XII, translated into verse by Sydney Oswald (pseudonym of Sydney F. M. Lomer), privately published in 1914; and (iii) Strato’s Boyish Muse translated into prose by Ion Ionicos (pseudonym of Shane Leslie), published by Fortune Press in 1932. Obviously any two translations will inevitably contain common ground, differently worded, and this makes it difficult to tell whether Reid’s wording is his own translation or merely a paraphrase of one or other of the foregoing.

By way of a sample, I here look at Reid’s translations of the first ten poems in Strato. Readers should note that the Sydney Oswald translation does not use the whole of Strato, and of the first ten poems considered here, only four (nos.5, 8, 9 & 10) are included in it.

To begin, then, here is Reid’s translation of Strato 1:

“Let’s start with Zeus” (to quote Aratus) so
No need to ask the Muses what to do.
If I love boys, and keep young lads in tow,
Muses of Helicon, what’s that to you ?

This could easily be a simple verse paraphrase of Paton’s prose translation:

“Let us begin from Zeus,” as Aratus said, and you, O Muses, I trouble not to–day. For if I love boys and associate with boys, what is that to the Muses of Helicon ?

Next, here is Reid’s version of Strato 2:

My poems won’t tell Priam’s sacrifice,
Medea’s tears, nor those of Niobe,
Nor Itys with his nightingale device:
Those stories went out with antiquity.
My pages hold no fare for gloomy faces,
I write of wine, erotic joys and graces.

Again, here is Paton’s rendering of the same poem:

Look not in my pages for Priam by the altar, nor for the woes of Medea and Niobe, nor for Itys in his chamber and the nightingales amid the leaves; for earlier poets wrote of all these things in profusion. But look for sweet Love mingled with the jolly Graces, and for Bacchus. No grave face suits them.

As can be seen, Reid’s version could again be a simple paraphrase of Paton’s, with “amid the leaves” becoming a “device” for the purposes of making a rhyme with “sacrifice”, and with Bacchus becoming simply wine, but with Graces retained to rhyme with faces. (Incidentally, the version of Ion Ionicus could also be a paraphrase of Paton’s, and indeed Reid expresses dismay that in many places Leslie has “copied quite shamelessly” from Paton’s translation! Eternal Flame vol.1, p.20.)

Strato 3 is one of the more explicit homoerotic poems which Paton translated into Latin rather than English. In the Ion Ionicus translation it reads thus:

Boyish nature falls into three forms, Diodorus. Learn their names. The virgin shape is called lalou. The swelling adolescent is called coco and the youthfulness, that dances to the touch, call a lizard. You know what to call it in perfection.

Here now is Reid’s version:

Boy’s cocks, Diodorus, come in three sizes
and you shall learn their names:
The junior (still untrained) is lalou;
the adolescent (starting to swell) is koko;
the youthful (that responds to every touch) is sauron;
that’s wizard – I mean lizard.
Now you’ve got them to perfection.

Sauron, of course, derives from the Greek for a lizard (as in dinosaur.) Reid’s wizard–lizard quip is clearly a bit of improvisation rather than translation, and other than that, Reid’s version could easily be based on that of Ion Ionicus.

Strato 4 and 5 could also easily be paraphrases of Paton, so I will not go into details. Strato 6 is more interesting, though, being a numerological oddity. Here is Paton’s translation:

The numerical value of the letters in πρωκτος (podex) and χρυσος (gold) is the same. I once found this out reckoning up casually.

Paton has used the Latin word podex (= rump or anus) to spare the blushes (or giggles ?) of his readers. Now here is Reid’s version:

Adding their letters, two Greek words both sum
An equal value – they are ‘gold’ and ‘bum’.

If I had to guess, I would say that Reid used Paton here, and capitalised on the rhyming of “numerical value” = ‘sum’, and the slang word ‘bum’.

Strato 7 is another poem which Paton opts to translate only into Latin, but which features in Ion Ionicus thus:

The virgin girl lacks a certain charm. There is no one way of loving her nor is there a natural fragrance in her skin. She has no sweetly obscene talk nor look of effrontery. When she has been taught, she is worse still. All the girls are frigid of flank and what is more important, there is nothing to lodge the wandering hand.

Here now is Reid’s version:

All virgin girls lack charm: there’s no rear way
Worth using. There’s no fragrance in them. Never.
They have no sweet lewd talk or pert display,
And when you teach them tricks it’s worse than ever.
All girls are frigid taken from behind,
And for the questing hand there’s naught to find.

Again, one suspects that Reid used Ion Ionicus here, though “no rear way worth using” is Reid’s own improvisation, I think.

Strato 8 and 9 could again be simple paraphrases of Paton, but Strato 10 is more interesting. Here is Paton’s translation:

Even though the invading down and the delicate auburn curls of thy temples have leapt upon thee, that does not make me shun my beloved, but his beauty is mine, even if there be a beard and hairs.

Here is that of Ion Ionicus:

Even though the lascivious down and the delicate yellow locks of thy temples have leaped forth upon thee, not for that will I fly my love. Though beard there be and hairs, his beauty is mine.

And here is that of Oswald:

Though the first down of youth thy face doth show
In dainty yellow curls upon thy cheek,
So great thy beauty, though thy beard doth grow,
I take no heed and still thy favour seek.

Now here is Reid’s version:

Although your sexual floss proclaims its sign
And those long curls grow delicately fair,
You are my loved boy still, your beauty mine,
Despite a darkened chin and pubic hair.

Is this a genuine translation of Reid’s ? Or is it mostly a paraphrase, with Reid’s own stress on the pubic hair aspect of the male adolescent rather than just bodily hair generally? The Greek word used in the fourth line is τριχες, which simply means “hairs”. As for Reid’s “sexual floss” in his first line – presumably following the “lascivious down” of Ion Ionicus – the origin of this is not clear, as τριχοφοιτος is “the first down of youth just passing into hair” and ιουλος is “down”, in reference to the first growth of the beard or whiskers invading the youthful face, as in Paton’s translation. Of course, it is entirely possible that Strato also had pubic hair in mind as well as facial or bodily hair generally (just as “beard” today can be a reference to female pubic hair), but so far as I can see there is no direct reference to it in the original Greek.

Note 16b: Catullus: Reid ‘translates’ only a selection of the poems of Catullus, namely nos. 106, 82, 33, 61 (part), 85, 48, 56, 21, 100, 24 & 99, this being the order in which they appear in Eternal Flame vol.1. We know that Reid had and used copies of (i) the Loeb edition of Catullus, translated by Francis W. Cornish (I here use the revised edition of 1924) and (ii) the translation into English verse by Sir Richard Burton, with a parallel prose translation by Leonard C. Smithers, printed for Private Subscribers only by Smithers in London in 1894.

Reid’s versions of Catullus 106 & 82 could easily be paraphrases of Cornish, though it has to be said that Reid does clarify the obscurity of Cornish (and Burton & Smithers too) in the case of the latter. Let us begin, then, with Reid’s version of Catullus 33:

The Public Baths don’t have a smarter pair
At pinching clothes, Vibenius, than you
And your debauchee son. Your hand will dare
As much filth as his rump. So take your cue:
Just emigrate. We know you here too well,
And those worn buttocks are too soiled to sell.

Cornish replaces the more explicit bits of Catullus with dots in his translation, which reads thus:

Cleverest of all clothes–stealers at the baths, father Vibennius and you his profligate with you into banishment and the dismal regions, since the father’s plunderings are known to all the world...

Here now is Burton’s verse version:

Oh, best of robbers who in Baths delight,
Vibennius, sire and son, the Ingle hight,
(For that the father’s hand be fouler one
And with his anus greedier is the Son)
Why not to banishment and evil hours
Haste ye, when all the parent’s plundering powers
Are public knowledge, nor canst gain a Cent
Son! By the vending of thy pilèd vent.

And here is Smithers’ prose version:

O, chiefest of pilferers, baths frequenting, Vibennius, the father and his pathic son (for with the right hand is the sire more in guilt, and with his backside is the son the greedier), who go ye not to exile and ill hours, seeing that the father’s plunderings are known to all folk, and that, son, thou cans’t not sell thine hairy buttocks for a doit ?

What seems clear enough is that Reid’s version is not a faithful paraphrase of any single one of these, but that it could well be a composite version put together with Latin dictionary in hand, though Reid’s “emigrate” is hardly the same as “banishment” or “exile” (Latin “exilium”.) Also, of course, Reid loses sight of the fact that the “worn buttocks” are those of the son, and that they could only be sold for a “cent” or a “doit” (originally a low denomination Netherlandish coin which came to serve as small change in England, and thus came to mean “next to nothing,”) These correspond to the “as” of the original Latin, the smallest denomination of Roman coin.

Next, here is Reid’s version of a part of Catullus 61 (lines 122ff). Readers should be aware that this is part of a wedding song, and indicates that, on marriage, the bridegroom (Master) will have to give up the pleasures of sex with his slave–boy (Concubine–lad), and turn his attentions to his wife instead. Fescennine jokes were crude jokes told at the wedding feast in anticipation of the wedding–night. The distribution or scattering of nuts associated with the wedding feast is perhaps comparable to the scattering of rice over the bride and groom at weddings today. However, nuts were also used in children’s games, and they feature in that sense here too, indicating that the slave–boy, having lost his ‘concubine’ role, must now grow up:

Fescennine jokes are current now:
The Master’s bed–boy’s lost his job.
Give nuts, lad to the slaves and sob,
That kind of love has gone, and how!

Old lover–boy, give nuts away,
Your play with nuts is at an end;
A new job now – to serve and tend;
Concubine–lad, you’ve had your day.

Your ears were deaf to country–sluts
Or suitors, yesterday; today´┐Ż
Now you can shave first hairs away;
Poor bedroom–boy, throw out your nuts.

Here is Cornish’s version:

Let not the merry Fescennine jesting be silent long, let the favourite boy give away nuts to the slaves, when he hears how his lord has left his love.

Give nuts to the slaves, favourite: your time is past: you have played with nuts long enough: you must now be the servant of Talassius. Give nuts beloved slave.

To–day and yesterday you disdained the country wives: now the barber shaves your cheeks. Wretched, ah! wretched lover, throw the nuts.

Talassius, the Roman god presiding over marriage, is omitted in Reid’s version, which is therefore clearly not a literal translation. Also his use of “country–sluts” isn’t really justified, beyond giving him a rhyme for “nuts”, and Cornish’s “country wives” (“vilicae” in the original Latin) is more accurate.

Reid’s versions of Catullus 85 and 48 could both easily be paraphrases of Cornish, but Catullus 56 is of more interest, for its last three lines were left untranslated by Cornish, and replaced by a modest row of dots. Smithers rendered them faithfully thus: “Just now I caught a boy a–thrusting in a girl: and on him (so please you, Dione) with rigid spear of mine I fell.” The last three lines of Reid’s version read:

(As a boy and a girl were screwing)
Catching them clutched, I started doing:
Third man on top – self–servicing a boy–sandwich.

There is no “rigid spear” (telo rigida) or reference to the goddess Dione here, both present in the original Latin. Reid’s third line, especially with that modernism “boy–sandwich”, is pure improvisation, presumably taking its lead from Smithers.

Reid’s version of Catullus 21 is as follows:

Aurelius, you miserly old sod,
Who always have been, always will be so,
Don’t touch my boy with your intrusive rod,
And keep your paws from fondling him. No go!
Bugger you! Can’t you treat him sometimes, kink ?
Your meanness makes me madder still – my kid
Will learn to starve and go without a drink.
Well, lay off him, or Heck you’ll wish you did.

Cornish does translate Catullus 21 into English, but tones it so far down as to lose much of its real meaning when it comes to the homoerotic content. Smithers translates it literally, thus:

Aurelius, father of the famished, in ages past in time now present and in future years yet to come, thou art longing to paedicate my love. Nor is’t done secretly: for thou art with him jesting, closely sticking at his side, trying every means. In vain: for, instructed in thy artifice, I’ll strike home beforehand by irrumating thee. Now if thou didst this to work off the results of full–living I would say nought: but what irks me is that my boy must learn to starve and thirst with thee. Wherefore, desist, whilst thou mayst with modesty, lest thou reach the end, – but by being irrumated.

Now whether or not Reid used this as a crib is not certain, but Reid’s version is clearly not a good translation, with “miserly old sod” replacing “father of the famished” (pater esuritionum), the “intrusive rod” being loosely based on “longing to paedicate my love” (pedicare cupis meos amores), “kink” being dragged in to rhyme with “drink”, and “Heck you’ll wish you did” being a poor rendering of “lest you reach the end – but by being irrumated” (ne finem facias, sed irrumatus).

Reid’s version of Catullus 100 could easily be based on either Cornish or Smithers, but the ‘authenticity’ of Reid’s translation is shown by his last line, “Good luck, old flame! May you get your boy!” In Smithers this line reads: “Be happy, O Caelius, be potent in love” (sis felix, Caeli, sis in amore potens), Caelius being, as Reid correctly indicates in modern phraseology, an “old flame” of Catullus.

Reid’s version of Catullus 24 could again be based on Cornish and / or Smithers, but again his lines 3–5 show his method of ‘translation’:

I’d rather you gave gold to that old swine,
Who has no slaves nor bank account, not he,
Than gave yourself up to be his concubine.

In Smithers these three lines read:

Rather would I that thou hadst given the wealth e’en of Midas to that fellow who owns neither slave nor store, than that thou shouldst suffer thyself to be loved by such an one.

Neither “that old swine” nor “concubine” is in the original, and they serve largely to give Reid the rhyme he needs. As for Midas, who is mentioned by name in the original, he has simply been dropped by Reid. “Bank account” is, of course a modernism for “arca” (= money–box) in the original.

Finally, Reid’s version of Catullus 99 follows much the same pattern, in that it could be derived by paraphrasing either Cornish or Burton–Smithers. Once again the level of his translation can be gauged from his tenth line, “Till that same kiss grew bitter”, should literally be, as in the version of Cornish, “that kiss, changed from ambrosia, was now more bitter than bitter hellebore.”

Note 17a: The above–mentioned Uranian poet ‘Philebus’, with whose works Reid was certainly familiar, believed that paederasty was literally “God’s fairest gift to human–kind.” More generally, the Uranians believed that Greek Love was of a higher order than heterosexual love, and that male relationships were superior to marriage–ties. See Tim Smith’s already mentioned study Love in Earnest, p.175–7.

Note 17b: In 1894 the Uranian poet J. F. Bloxam, hidden behind the pseudonym of X, published a short story titled “The Priest and the Acolyte.” As the title suggests, it is the tale of a priest and his love for a fourteen years old acolyte. When they are discovered in each other’s arms by a suspicious rector, the priest offers this defence: “There is no sin for which I should feel shame...God gave me my love for him, and He gave him also his love for me. Who is there that shall withstand God and the love that is His gift ?” (Love in Earnest, p.54–7.)

Note 18: Reid seems here to think that there is a standard text of The Rubaiyat consisting of 252 quatrains, and that this was used by both FitzGerald and Arberry. This is not true, of course. FitzGerald used the Ouseley Manuscript, containing only 158 quatrains, and the Calcutta Manuscript, containing 516.

Note 19a: For a first example, the above–quoted quatrain 161 of Reid’s is a loose paraphrase of verse–pair 161 of Arberry’s:

These simple things if they be mine –
A loaf the purest heart of wheat,
A thigh of lamb to be my meat,
For thirst a flagon of good wine:

And if, to cheer my wilderness,
A maid refusing not my kiss,
That were a life of perfect bliss
No sceptred sultan can possess.

As can be seen, the maid of Arberry’s translation has become a boy in Reid’s paraphrase.

To give readers two more examples of the originals behind Reid’s above–quoted paraphrases, here is Arberry’s original verse–pair 119:

The wine and the beloved for me!
Take you your convent and your church,
If after Paradise ye search:
If I’m for Hell, so let it be.

Declare, what shortcoming ye see
Me guilty of, since long ago
The Eternal Artist drew me so
Upon the Slate of Destiny.

Arberry has the beloved with no sex indicated; Reid clearly opts for a male, specifically a boy.

Again, here is Arberry’s verse–pair 49:

If thou wilt drink, to banish gloom,
Either with wise men take thy joy,
Or with a happy, laughing boy
In whose soft cheeks the roses bloom.

Yet drink not overmuch, nor be
Forever toping, to disgrace:
Drink little, in due time and place,
And drink in decent secrecy.

Here, Arberry’s “a happy, laughing boy” has become Reid’s “willing, pink–faced boys”, so Reid is here faithful to his original.

Note 19b: In Reid’s twelve quatrains, Reid changes the sex of Omar’s beloved from Arberry’s female to male twice (quatrains 160 & 161) and changes an unspecified sex into male four times (quatrains 119, 195, 184 & 207.) In the remaining six quatrains, the beloved was male in both Reid’s version and Arberry’s. Thus Arberry was not one of those translators who, in the name of ‘decency’, felt obliged to change references to boys into references to girls, and on the contrary, it would appear that Reid has been somewhat overenthusiastic in changing at least two references to girls into references to boys!

Note 20: My account is based on the front page of The Southern Daily Echo, March 21st 1995 (in which Reid is simply “a 78 year old man from the New Forest” who had been bailed to appear at a New Forest police station the following month), and The Times, August 23rd 1995, p.7 (in which, having been found guilty, he is “Donald Reid, an author aged 79 of Ringwood, Hampshire.”)


First and foremost I must thank Timothy d’Arch Smith, who knew Reid for many years, and has been a prime source of information about him, his collecting interests, and how he came to publish The Eternal Flame. I must also thank several of Tim’s friends and contacts for supplying some further details – notably Jeffrey Weeks, Brian Lewis and Frank Edmonds. (Frank, formerly of Dyanthus Press, actually dealt with Reid over the publication of The Eternal Flame volume 1.)

My thanks are also due to David Deiss of Elysium Books & Asphodel / Elysium Press, who dealt with Reid over the publication of The Eternal Flame volume 2.

My particular thanks must also go to Frederick Koch & his librarian John Olsen who so kindly answered my queries about the extra–illustrated editions of JBW’s, and for undertaking to supply scans from the extra–illustrated Golden Cockerel Rubaiyat in particular.

My thanks are also due to David Chambers, Christopher Buckland Wright, Douglas Taylor and Michael Behrend.

Finally, I must thank Richard Temple, Archivist at the Senate House Library, and Mrs S. Deen–Yasein, Deputy Head of Section, Transcripts Office, both of the University of London, for supplying the details about Reid’s degree in English.


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