Edward Heron–Allen: a walk on the wild side.

Prefatory Note: This article was originally to have been an addendum to Appendix 15, but it grew to such proportions as would have dominated that appendix. Consequently I have decided to feature it as a separate entity here. Since much of its early subject matter overlaps with Appendix 15, to save readers hopping back and forth, the first few paragraphs of this article will summarise some of the more detailed material to be found in that appendix. The illustrations for this article can be browsed here.

(i) Baron Corvo, Heron–Allen & the ‘Hotel Window’ Story

In 1923, at the request of publisher John Lane, Edward Heron–Allen (hereafter EHA) agreed to write an Introduction to a second edition of Frederick Baron Corvo’s translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the first edition having been published by Lane in 1903. It was finally published in 1924 under the title The Rubaiyat of Umar Khaiyam, and with the sub–title, “Translated from the French of J.B. Nicolas by Frederick Baron Corvo, together with a reprint of the French Text. Edited with notes and a comparative study of the original texts, and an Introduction by Edward Heron–Allen FRS.”

In many ways it was surprising that EHA took on the job, as Corvo knew no Persian, and had merely translated, from French to English, Nicolas’s translation from Persian to French. Furthermore, as EHA noted in his introduction, Corvo’s version was “a gospel of pure sensualism, into which he introduced a predominant note of homosexuality, which is far from justified by the original.” (Introduction p.v.) Actually, by today’s standards, the homosexual content of Corvo’s translation is nothing startling – see Appendix 15. for details.

Not a great deal was in print about Corvo back in 1924 (1) – an article by Shane Leslie, “Frederick Baron Corvo”, was pretty much the first account of him, having been published in the September 1923 issue of The London Mercury. EHA seems to have become aware of this whilst he was working on his Introduction and Notes, and it is mentioned in a footnote, on p.v of his Introduction. It was not to be until 1934 that the first edition of A.J.A.Symons’s classic biography, The Quest for Corvo: An Experiment in Biography was to be published (2a). This has probably done as much to raise Corvo’s profile as his works themselves, and, despite some inaccuracies, it remains my personal favourite, given the later appearance of at least three biographies which have had the benefit of more recent research (2b).

So who was Frederick Baron Corvo, in a nutshell ? The truth, I’m afraid, is rather sad and at times rather sordid. His title of Baron Corvo was a sham, for a start, and he was plain Frederick William Rolfe, born and baptised thus in London in 1860. Bitterly disappointed in life by his failure to become first a priest, then an artist, then a successful writer, he was a poseur and one who was, shall we say, frequently economical with the truth. But he was one with enough charm to be able to sponge off numerous friends, the said friends generally ceasing to be friends ere long, when the ‘Baron’ failed to repay his debts. In addition, as EHA indicated in his Introduction, Corvo was a homosexual. There is nothing wrong in that, of course, but when one realises that the ‘Baron’ was rather fond of buying the sexual services of teenage boys, and worse, of procuring the services of such boys for others, then one’s sympathies rapidly wane. This unsavoury business was revealed in the notorious Venice Letters, written by Corvo to a homosexual friend back in England in 1909 – 1910. (Corvo had travelled to Venice, effectively as tourist, in 1908. But then, for one reason or another, he ended up staying there until his death in 1913.) Before turning to the Venice Letters, and more particularly EHA’s comments on them, we need to visit the London Library.

There is a unique copy of the 1924 edition of Corvo’s Rubaiyat in the Heron–Allen Collection at the London Library. Inside it are bound together a copy of Nicolas’s translation of 1867 followed by an annotated copy (made up from proof–sheets) of the EHA–Corvo edition of 1924. More importantly, tipped–in to this volume are various newspaper cuttings, reviews, letters, and clips about Corvo–related material, plus a copy of Shane Leslie’s article “Frederick Baron Corvo”, published in The London Mercury, as mentioned above. Of particular interest to us here is EHA’s insert relating to the books by and letters (the Venice Letters) from Corvo which were being offered for sale by book–dealer “C. Millard” in 1926.

Millard was Christopher Sclater Millard (1872–1927), and he ran a book business, specialising in Uranian (homosexual) Literature, from his bungalow in the St John’s Wood area of London. (Symons gives an interesting account of him in the opening chapter of The Quest for Corvo, which book, incidentally is dedicated to Shane Leslie.) But it was the sale of the letters which roused EHA to fury. He pasted–in to this volume the pages of Millard’s catalogue which contained expurgated summaries of the letters, and prefaced them with a lengthy hand–written note of which the following is a transcription, a facsimile of the first page of it being shown in Fig.1:

The ‘Advertisement’ of the Letters of ‘Baron Corvo’ in this folded sheet is from the Catalogue No.14, issued in February 1926 by [C. Millard, The Bungalow at 8 Abercorn Place, London NW8 &c] and I insert it here as documentary evidence of the statement which I did not shrink from making in my ‘Introduction’ that Frederick Rolfe’s tastes & tendencies were purely homosexual.

I have seen these letters which were written to one Mason (sic) Fox (his name is indicated in Millard’s headline ‘The Raven & the Fox’ (3)) who, I understand, is still living, a respected citizen of Plymouth (4). How he can ever have preserved them, much less parted with them passes my comprehension. They contain the most filthy & detailed descriptions of homosexual lust – Corvo’s own experiences in Venice, & incidentally make it quite clear that Mason Fox was of similar tendencies, and a companion of Corvo in this form of debauchery, which is recounted with a cynicism compared with which the descriptions of the love affairs of Giton in the “Satyricon” of Petronius Arbiter and some passages in the Memoirs of Casanova are decent and restrained.

That they should have come into the possession of Millard is not surprising, however, though it seems unbelievable that he should advertise them for sale publicly – it is certain that to send them through the post would be an indictable offence. Millard – who under the pen–name of ‘Stuart Mason’ has contributed much to the literature concerning Oscar Wilde & published a Bibliography of his works (5) – is notoriously of the same habit of life & mind & has on more than one occasion been sent to prison in consequence. (6)

I add these notes to this special volume, as I have been reproached with having thus stigmatized ‘Baron Corvo’ both in my ‘Introduction’ & my ‘Notes’, without proof of the justice of my suggestions.(7) The proof is amply contained in these letters as is clearly shown in the extracts which Millard has printed in his advertisement.

The same catalogue contains the subjoined ‘offers’ of works of Frederick Rolfe – in which Millard specializes.

[The offered works are: Stories Toto Told Me; Hadrian the Seventh; The Weird of the Wanderer; Tarcissus, The Boy Martyr of Rome; In His Own Image; and some manuscript poems.]

[For EHA’s re–cap of the foregoing in Notes & Queries in 1933, of which more below, see note 8.]

The 18 letters, 5 postcards and 2 telegrams which Millard offered for sale as a collection for £65 were eventually bought by A.J.A. Symons for £25, and subsequently re–sold by him to the somewhat dubious character, Maundy Gregory, some years later for £150 (The Quest for Corvo, p.280.) The letters received due attention in Symons’s book, mostly in the opening chapter (p.26–8), but again later in the book (p.241), though Symons refrained from naming the recipient of the letters. After Maundy Gregory, the letters passed through the hands of several collectors and dealers (9), and were eventually acquired by the Humanities Research Library at the University of Texas, Austin, where they still are. They were finally published, in full, and unexpurgated, in Cecil Woolf’s book, Baron Corvo, Frederick Rolfe: The Venice Letters (1974; 1987 – the latter edition being illustrated with several line–drawings of naked boys by Rolfe.)

In many ways, the evil reputation of the Venice letters has outstripped the reality of their contents, though we should note that EHA had actually seen the letters, which few people had back in the mid 1920s. For the most part they are Rolfe’s usual complaints about the world’s mistreatment of him, denunciations of former friends who have betrayed or cheated him (at least as he saw it), his illnesses, his frequent hunger, his abject poverty, and even the number of rats he has had to trap in the miserable room in which he lived. Not surprisingly, the letters are also liberally interspersed with pleas for Fox to rescue him and send more money, which he did until his patience ran out – this on account of Rolfe’s extravagances, which seemingly began whenever he received any money! However, there is certainly a darker side to the letters. Attitudes to homosexuality have changed massively in recent years, so the explicit descriptions of his sexual antics with the 16½ years old boy Amadeo Amadei (Woolf, letters 5 & 6) or the 17 years old boy Piero / Peter (letter 11) do not raise the eyebrows they once would have done, even given the ages of the boys, both of whom had clearly had many ‘patrons’ before Rolfe came along. But when Rolfe shows no objection to Fox’s preference for younger boys of age 14 (letter 10), or when he suggests that Fox might like to send him the money to set up a place in Venice to which he (Rolfe) could arrange to bring boys along for his (Fox’s) pleasure (letter 7), or again, when he offers to send Fox the address of a nice Jewish boy of 16 in Bristol (letter 10), it is clear that Rolfe saw nothing amiss in sexually exploiting young boys. Though attitudes to homosexuality might have softened massively in recent years, attitudes to pederasty have, if anything, massively hardened, as the awareness of the concepts of child abuse and the sexual exploitation of young people have become more widespread. In that sense, Rolfe stands more condemned now than he did in EHA’s time. (10) In some ways, then, EHA’s condemnation is fair enough.

But not everything is as it seems. The generally prevailing view of EHA is that he was a twice–married conventionally heterosexual male, with an eye for the ladies. But how true is that picture ? It is at this point that the story takes a very surprising twist to which I was alerted by Timothy d’Arch Smith’s book The Frankaus: Prejudice & Principles within a London Literary Family (2015).

Tim’s great–grandmother, Julia Frankau, knew EHA, and in fact, in her novel The Sphinx’s Lawyer (1906), written under the pen–name of Frank Danby, she had partly based the character of the lawyer in her title on him (11). But all that is by the by, and our main concern here is with Tim’s reference to EHA’s above–quoted note condemning Rolfe’s Venice Letters & Millard’s convictions for what was then called “gross indecency”:

Heron–Allen’s discovery of Millard’s troubles was probably made by listening to booksellers’ gossip (he was a keen bibliophile) and betrays a deeper curiosity than absolutely necessary for a translator of Omar. Further interest is evinced by the existence in Heron–Allen’s hand of a short story he wrote (or copied), the contents of which, with more justification than Rolfe’s letters, could be described as offering “filthy and detailed descriptions.” (p.158)

In a footnote to this, Tim adds:

The present whereabouts of this document is unknown. It was offered for sale by myself in the early 1970s. The location is a tourist hotel abroad in which the narrator sees from his balcony window certain goings–on in a room opposite. The manuscript is written on hotel writing–paper, perhaps to lend verisimilitude to the reported escapades.

As Tim later put it in an email to me, the story detailed “the antics of two men ‘at it’ in another of the hotel’s rooms.”

The present location of the original manuscript remained unclear for some time, but thanks to leads given by Tim McCann (Chairman & Archivist of the Heron–Allen Society) and Ray Russell (of Tartarus Press), it eventually turned up in a town only a few miles from where I live! Its owner, John Eggeling, had inherited it in about 2009 from his late friend John R Hale, and it came in an envelope bearing the hand–written description “Remarkable document discovered among the papers of the late Edward Heron–Allen.” (Fig.2) Tim Smith confirmed that when he sold the manuscript it was in this same envelope, though he does not recall the name of John R. Hale, so the MS may well have passed through other hands between Tim Smith and John Hale. Nor does Tim recall exactly where he got the manuscript from, though he thinks perhaps it came from the collection of the late C.K. Ogden (as mentioned in note (9).) No other details of provenance are known at this stage, though I should add that in the course of writing this essay, John Eggeling sold the manuscript to a private collector in America. Be that as it may, I was fortunate enough to obtain both a typed transcript of the story and a photocopy of the original manuscript, so I can now add considerably to Tim Smith’s account.

The sexual activity of the hotel window story involves “a rather fine–looking dark–haired soldierly–looking German, evidently an ex–officer” and “a fair... wavy–haired boy, tall for his age – about twenty.” Though the story may have some basis in fact, it is clearly an embellished version of that underlying fact (“one’s mind’s eye saw”; “I could imagine”), the embellishments being written by someone who was familiar with the imagery and terminology of homosexual fiction (the boy’s anus is “the rosette.”) It also seems clear that the author had strong homosexual tendencies, if not some actual homosexual experience (“I should have loved to have joined them and been ‘the happiest of three’.”) Not only that, but he was one with voyeuristic tendencies – the observed sexual action takes place over a period of “nearly three weeks”, we are told, and “I need hardly say that I frigged myself in sympathy, and ‘came’ in floods.” Not only that, but the observer would probably have needed binoculars to see some of the details he described (their “sucking kisses”, for example, or the “rose–tint head” of the boy’s erect penis), and described, I should add, with considerable relish (“most exciting to see!”)

All this being so much at odds with the prevailing view of EHA as a heterosexual ladies’ man, one at first wonders if it could really have been written by him. Tim McCann put the dilemma well when he wrote, in a personal email of 18th April 2017:

I am still puzzled by this document. It is so out of character and so untypical of Heron–Allen. I know he was not to be trusted with women and had a hankering to be a voyeur, but actually I think he was something of a prude. Witness his letter to the press objecting to women riding bicycles (12a), his very prudish reaction to the nudity at the Folies in Paris (12b) and his embarrassed reaction to the girls sunbathing in Pertisau. (12c)

The reactions detailed in note (12c), being of the same date as the hotel window story, are the most relevant to us here. Even granted that EHA experienced a degree of titillation along with his embarrassment, his reactions are in stark contrast to his language in the hotel window story, where we read, “I have often seen two women actually fuck one another – true Tribadism – but it was reserved for this visit for me to see two men fuck one another woman–fashion”, this being followed a few lines later (after some details I would rather not dwell upon) by, “I was disappointed never to see them suck one another à la 69.”

But there is very little doubt that the story was written by EHA.

The first page of the original manuscript is shown in Fig.3, and a comparison of the handwriting in Fig.1 and Fig.3 makes it almost certain, I think, that the ‘hotel window’ manuscript was indeed written by EHA. The letterhead of the notepaper on which the story is written – “Insel – Hotel / Konstanz – Bodensee” – gives us our best clue as to its date, for, as Tim McCann first discovered, EHA and his second wife, Nour, stayed at that hotel from 28th July to 3rd August 1931, having previously stayed in the Hotel Alpenhof, at Pertisau, from 6th to 27th July. This period, of course, tallies with the “nearly three weeks” during which the sexual activity in the story was observed. Again, the second line of Fig.3 says that the events he is describing “were enacted, unconsciously, for my benefit at P” (which fits with P = Pertisau) and in the 1st, 7th & 8th lines of the second paragraph of Fig.3 we have “N said / remarked” (which fits with N = Nour.) There seems little doubt, then, that the events described took place in Pertisau, but were written down in Konstanz, or at least on hotel paper acquired there, in the summer of 1931. (13)

Prominent aspects of the story are its unashamed voyeurism (witness Tim McCann’s comment about EHA above), and the fact that EHA wrote it down for someone he had already told about it, and who wanted to know more. (“You want to hear all about the remarkable scenes &c” in the opening line of Fig.3.) But for whom did he write it down ? It was Tim McCann who first pointed out that, on 19th July 1931 (ie during his stay at Pertisau), EHA wrote, in his diary, “told J.A. a story, ‘The Man and the Boy’. Think I shall write it.” (Fig.4)(14a) But who was J.A.? Most peculiarly, the only J.A. that Tim McCann has encountered in his studies of EHA’s diaries covering this period is a woman – Joan Antrobus – who was staying at the same hotel in Pertisau, with her friend Mrs Louisand or Louisade or even Lusiade (the name is not clear, but it turns out to be Lousada) (14b) at the same time as EHA and his wife. To write such a story down for a woman, of course, seems very strange, though one should perhaps recall that, from the time of their childhoods and on into their adult lives, the poet Swinburne and his cousin Mary Gordon (later Mrs Mary Disney Leith) shared a curious interest in flagellation, and exchanged letters about it. But alas, unlike Mary Gordon, nothing appears to be known about Joan Antrobus. EHA simply tells us that she was “unhappy looking” and smoked incessantly (14b). She remains very much a mystery figure (14c). Whoever she was, though, the inscription on the envelope in Fig.2 would seem to suggest that EHA never gave the story to her, unless, perhaps, he gave her a copy and retained one for himself.

The year in which the story was written, 1931, is only five years, at most, after EHA’s lengthy private condemnation of the Rolfe letters and the Millard catalogue detailed earlier, surely too short a time for him to have undergone a radical change in his sexuality, or to have done a complete U–turn in his views. In any case, two years after writing down the story, he publicly reiterated his condemnation of Rolfe in the short article published in Notes and Queries in 1933, mentioned in note (8). Was he, then, a bisexual who, aside from this story, had successfully hidden his homosexual inclinations ? There would be nothing wrong in that at all, of course, were it not for the fact that EHA condemned Rolfe for penning “the most filthy & detailed descriptions of homosexual lust”, a sin of which he himself was far more guilty in penning the Hotel Window story. For let there be no mistake, as Tim Smith indicated long before me, the Venice letters are far less obscene than the Hotel Window story. It is difficult not to see EHA’s note in Fig.1 and his piece in Notes and Queries, as a hypocritical defence of conventional moral standards to which he did not really subscribe.

(ii) The Cabinet of Erotica.

For a long time I could not quite get my head around this story being written by EHA, let alone for a woman, and I cast around for any sort of explanation that made sense aside from the obvious one of post–Victorian hypocrisy. Though much of what follows results in ‘dead–ends’, the material is worth reviewing nonetheless, not only to show that the dead ends have been explored, but also to show that EHA’s mind ranged far and wide beyond the familiar fields of the Rubaiyat, foraminifera, violin making and palm reading.

EHA is known to have adhered to the dictum that, “A filthy mind is a continual feast,” (15) and though we are necessarily left to wonder exactly how filthy the feast might have become at times, it has always seemed far more likely that it would have been heterosexually so, given EHA’s reputation as a ladies’ man (16) and his disdain for Baron Corvo’s homosexually slanted Rubaiyat and for effeminate posers like Richard le Gallienne (17). As is well known, like many a gentleman in those days, EHA had a cabinet of erotica (15), disposed of, in accordance with his Will (18), by his male executors (ie excluding his wife), after his death in 1943. Exactly what was in the cabinet, and what became of its contents, remains shrouded in mystery. There is a ‘legend’ that some items were sent on approval to a prospective buyer, who then refused either to pay for or to return the said items, threatening that if the executors pursued the matter in law, they would find themselves prosecuted for sending obscene material through the postal service! But no–one seems to be sure whether this is true or not, or if it isn’t, how the ‘legend’ started. Be that as it may, many of EHA’s books were sold at Sotheby’s in October 1944. The catalogue featured 105 “French Novels” (Lot 104 – no titles given, “sold as a collection, not subject to return”); two copies of the Kama Sutra, one in French, published in Paris in 1891, the other published in ‘Cosmopoli’ in 1883 – ie a copy of the famous edition published “for private circulation only” by the Kama Shastra Society (= Sir Richard Burton & F.F. Arbuthnot) (Lot 129); a copy of Krafft–Ebing’s well–known Psychopathia Sexualis, together with a copy of the lesser–known work by Iwan Bloch, The Sexual Life of Our Time in its relations to Modern Civilisation (Lot 133); a French book on the Nude in the Theatre (Lot 156); and two copies of The Satyricon (Lots 293 & 294.) All this perhaps suggests that his cabinet of erotica was fairly routine for the time, and probably nothing that we today would find scandalous. On the other hand, back in 1944 nothing too erotic would have been sold at Sotheby’s anyway, so if anything from the cabinet did find its way into that sale, it would only have been the less offensive material. As I say, exactly what was in that cabinet remains shrouded in mystery.

One of EHA’s executors was Vyvyan Holland, the son of Oscar Wilde, and his diaries survive in the possession of Merlin Holland, Vyvyan’s son. Unfortunately, Merlin tells me, the diaries throw no light on the mystery, and what seems to be a promising lead turns out to be another dead–end! Furthermore, Merlin tells me, the handwriting in Fig.2 is definitely not that of his father, and indeed Merlin went on to say that, “Knowing my father, if he had found it at Large Acres when he was ‘clearing up’ I suspect he would simply have burned it...What seems more likely is that it had been in someone else’s possession at the time of his death, which is why it survived.” (From a personal email of 19th May 2017: EHA’s Will (18) did provide for the destruction of letters, papers and books at the discretion of his male executors.) Whether or not there was any homosexual erotica in EHA’s cabinet which was so burnt, remains unknown. As we shall see later, though, it appears that the cabinet probably did contain a selection of lesbian literature.

(iii) EHA as an author of fiction – The Cheetah–Girl

The Hotel Window story sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb amongst EHA’s fictional output, so it is well worth looking at some of this to provide some background.

EHA’s first novel is particularly interesting for its (largely implied) sexual undercurrents. Published under his own name, it bore the full title Ashes of the Future (A Study of mere Human Nature): The Suicide of Sylvester Gray. It was published in America in 1888, and though it ran to two editions, it is today extremely rare. Its title page is shown in Fig.5 (19a).

The story of Sylvester Gray is told by John Tompkins M.D. (nicknamed Jack), who is known, from EHA’s own annotated copy of the novel, to be based on EHA himself. It begins with his schooldays at Harrow, which school EHA really did attend, and where, it seems, he met the character on which Sylvester is based (one M.S. Eyre.) As Jack puts it, “his face conquered me – it was beautiful... I was charmed by this juvenile Adonis.”(p.13). By the end of their time at Harrow, Sylvester has become “a superlatively handsome young man” (p.23) Of course, Jack’s acknowledgement of Sylvester’s male beauty does not necessarily imply homosexual inclinations on his part. After all, the facial beauty of Michelangelo’s David is appreciated by many a heterosexual male, the present writer included.

As the title of the novel indicates, Sylvester Gray was destined to kill himself (19b) – in Rome, at the early age of thirty. Why ? Infuriatingly the novel doesn’t actually tell us, and all we get are veiled hints. Though Sylvester becomes enamoured first of Evelyn Wooster, later of the Princess Pamphila–Severi, he can follow neither relationship through to marriage because, as he tells Jack, “There is something in my life so horrible to remember, that it clouds my enjoyment of every moment of my existence. I can’t tell you what it is, but it closes the doors of happiness upon me, and I can never hope to offer a thing so vile as myself to any woman who may honor me with her love.” (p.54) Slightly later, he adds, “I shudder at the very thought of a deep passion; my heart is dry and sterile, and no woman may ever quicken it into life by the magic of her touch.” (p.54–5) “The real Sylvester Gray,” he tells Jack, “lies hidden under an exterior which, fortunately, is not disagreeable to people.” (p.55)

All this, of course, leads to the suspicion that Sylvester Gray is a closet homosexual, a side to his nature discovered during his schooldays at Harrow. But if so, this is not specifically revealed in the novel. Had the concerned Jack been able to get Sylvester to disclose his guilty secret, and had it been of a homosexual nature, it might have given us some insight into EHA’s later condemnation of Rolfe, Fox and Millard. But of course, in 1888 a respectable author could not be explicit about sexual matters – certainly not about homosexual ones – and so we are, almost of necessity, left to speculate.

But to return to the generality of EHA’ fictional output, under his own name he published his novel The Princess Daphne in 1888, and a collection of stories under the lead title of A Fatal Fiddle in 1889. Neither of these is of particular interest here, being more relevant to students of EHA’s fondness for strange twists of fate, psychical phenomena and the supernatural. We also know that he wrote fiction under various pen–names, often anagrams of his own (19c). Thus, for example, under the pen–name, Ronald Redhew Neal (an anagram of Edward Heron Allen) he contributed a short story to Sir Gilbert Campbell’s collection, On a Winter’s Night, published in 1887, and he published his novel The Romance of a Quiet Watering Place under the pen–name of Nora Helen Warddel (another anagram of Edward Heron Allen) in 1888. Many authors write under pen–names of course, but in EHA’s case his liking for disguise went further than that. Vyvyan Holland, in his Time Remembered after Père Lachaise (1966), wrote of EHA:

In some ways he had never grown up; he had the small boy’s love of having a “hidey–hole”, and retiring into it, in the shape of a small flat in Hampstead to which he would retire to pursue secret activities of his own under another name. He even had another Bank account in that name, out of which he paid the rent. All his family knew of this “hidey–hole”, and all his neighbours in Hampstead knew his real name; yet he persisted in his dual personality and was convinced that he had succeeded in keeping his two identities apart, in spite of the fact that that I told him, on several occasions, that it was a secret de polichinelle. (p.130)

A major part of EHA’ fictional output, though, began with a volume of short stories, The Purple Sapphire, written under the pen–name Dr. Christopher Blayre, and published in 1921 (Fig.6). This was followed by The Strange Papers of Dr. Blayre, published in 1932 (Fig.7), which was essentially a reprint of The Purple Sapphire, but with the addition of four new stories. Then came Some Women of the University (1934) (Fig.8), this being subtitled “a Last Selection from the Strange Papers of Christopher Blayre Ph.D., D.Litt.,” and so was a continuation of the foregoing.

The University of this last title, incidentally, was the fictional one of Cosmopoli, of which Dr Blayre was “Sometime Registrar” (as we are told in Figs.6, 7 & 8.) (It was presumably just down the road from the publisher of the 1883 edition of Sir Richard Burton’s and F.F. Arbuthnot’s translation of The Kama Sutra, which had been published there, to fend off possible prosecution for obscenity, for the Kama Shastra Society of London and Benares, “for private circulation only.” As we saw above, EHA owned a copy.)

‘Blayre’s’ stories are what we now class as fantasy and / or science fiction. They are presented as if they were papers based on controversial scientific research conducted by various professors at the University of Cosmopoli, the research being deemed so controversial that the papers could not have been published at the time they were written, but were instead confided to the care of Dr Blayre, in his post as Registrar, until the time was ripe for their publication. There is nothing erotic in any of them, though one of the ‘Blayre’ stories, The Cheetah–Girl, was deemed too indecent for general publication in The Purple Sapphire in 1921, and appeared on its own, prefixed with a “Note of Explanation”, in a limited edition of 20 copies “for private circulation” in 1923. (Fig.9) It was the story of a scientific experiment by Professor Barrowdale, of the department of Physiology at the University of Cosmopoli, in which the use of serums enabled the inter–breeding between different species. The Cheetah–Girl, named Uniqua, was the result of cross–breeding a domesticated cheetah with a human prostitute known as Menagerie Sal, who was a mentally disturbed lesbian, and one not averse to bestial insemination if the price was right. (20). But there is certainly nothing homoerotic in this or any of the Blayre stories, nor in any other stories published by him, for that matter, at least, nothing that has come to light so far that can definitely be attributed to him, so that the Hotel Window story remains out on a limb, and totally out of literary character.

Before moving on from The Cheetah–Girl, though, we should note the following passage from it as having a bearing on EHA’s views on homosexuality, albeit presented as those of Professor Barrowdale:

In the eighties of the last century, there are still people old enough to remember, a hot wave of what are known as Unnatural Vices almost openly and unblushingly practised, swept over our English Society. It was the outcome of the Aesthetic Craze, intimately associated with the name of Oscar Wilde, who ultimately, in the nineties, paid for everyone, and subsequently died overwhelmed with public infamy, and the private admiration of the few. It became a matter of ordinary conversation to discuss the homosexual love affairs of men and women prominent in Society – especially of the latter. In a word, Sodomy and Lesbianism were – sub rosâ – fashionable. Pre–eminent among the male “perverts” was a well–known Peer of artistic taste and enormous wealth, at whose house in the country homosexualists of both sexes congregated and where, as was averred, “orgies” took place that were spoken about with bated breath in the most fashionable boudoirs. Prominent in this society was a very high born dame indeed, in whose hands, or arms, no woman was safe, and she formed the centre of a Lesbian côterie which spread like a rodent ulcer into almost every class of society. It was in the un–natural order of things that the masculinity of the Lady, and the femininity of Lord X, should bring them closely together, so closely indeed that, to the astonishment of the inverted world, Lady Z gave birth to a child who was christened Ursula. (p.281–2)

Ursula was to become Menagerie Sal, the mentally unstable mother of Uniqua, and one wonders if her parents were loosely based on Lord Alfred Douglas and Olive Custance. He, of course, had famously been the sexual partner of Oscar Wilde and she the sexual partner of Natalie Clifford Barney, of whom more presently. Douglas and Custance married in 1902, it being said that the femininity of the former and the masculinity of the latter explained their mutual attraction (21). Later that same year they had a child, not a daughter but a son, Raymond. There is still a partial parallel though in that from his mid twenties Raymond spent much of his time in mental institutions.

The above comment on “a Lesbian côterie” should be borne in mind in what follows.

(iv) Iraïs

Intriguingly, EHA has been credited with writing, or at least having a hand in publishing, the extremely rare novel Iraïs – a “Roman Vécu” (True Romance) – a lesbian tale of a girl’s life in a Catholic boarding–school in Paris. Supposedly by Carina Jacqueline M., it was published under the clearly fictitious imprint, “Nubiana. / Tip. Sorelle Nessuno, / Via Val di Vento, 23”, in 1912. (The use of fictitious imprints to disguise the origins of pornographic works has a long history, of course – Cosmopoli has already been mentioned.) The title page of Iraïs bearing the ‘publisher’s imprint’, is shown in Fig.10, at which point we should recall that EHA’s collection of stories Some Women of the University (1934), mentioned above, was also published under the fake imprint “Nubiana. / Tip. Sorelle Nessuno, / Via Val di Vento, 69” (Fig.8) No–one seems to know the significance of this pseudonymous imprint, nor why the premises number is 69 in Fig.8 and 23 in Fig.10, but it is certainly one link between Iraïs and EHA.

One detail worth mentioning at this point is that the printer of Some Women of the University was named as Robert Stockwell of London. This, despite the ‘Italian’ publisher, surely indicates a disguised publication in London, the same, presumably, applying to Iraïs, though no printer is named anywhere in the novel. However, to date, nothing has surfaced to link EHA directly with the London–based Stockwell.

But the strongest link with EHA is provided by a unique volume in the collection of Barry Humphries (22). It consists of two copies of the novel bound together, both of which are proof copies. This volume was formerly in the library of EHA himself (it bears a bookplate of EHA, dated 1925), and given its contents, may well have lived in EHA’s above–mentioned cabinet of erotica. Its title page is as in Fig.10, but of more interest to us here is Fig.11a, its half–title page, which bears some interesting notes in EHA’s handwriting, and initialled by him. The upper note says “Of this edition only two copies were printed. / EHA / May 1912.” This must mean proof copies here, as there are certainly at least four other copies of the novel in existence – one in the British Library, another in Cornell University Library, another in the library of the University of Minnesota, and another in the Kinsey Institute in Bloomington, Indiana (23). The lower note says, “On p.104, l.3 ‘and her tongue touched me’ was altered, at the request of Natalie Clifford Barney, to ‘and as her lips enfolded it’” with “NB This is the only alteration that was made in the original MS.” The final published version has the latter wording, but, curiously, the two copies bound together in Barry’s collection do not have the former: one has “her mouth touched my arms” and the other “her tongue touched my arms”! However, this makes no difference to the issue at stake here – namely, the involvement of EHA in the publication of the novel, and, at the same time, the involvement of Natalie Clifford Barney.

Natalie Clifford Barney (1876–1972), of course, was the wealthy American–born expatriate poet and novelist who lived in Paris, and who presided over an avant–garde cultural salon there for over 60 years. Openly lesbian and a champion of feminism, an excellent account of her life, loves and works can be found in Suzanne Rodriguez’s book, Wild Heart: a Life – Natalie Clifford Barney and the Decadence of Literary Paris (2002). However, it should be stated here that Rodriguez’s detailed biography contains no reference either to EHA or to the novel Iraïs, and nor indeed does any other biography I have seen (24). Nevertheless we know from the above–quoted inscription that both EHA and Barney were involved in its writing and publication, though exactly how remains obscure.

So how did EHA come to know Barney ? That remains unknown at present, unfortunately. From his holiday diaries, he is known to have visited her at her house in Neuilly (then a village just outside Paris) on 2nd November 1907. Later that same day, she took him to meet Liane de Pougy, the famous courtesan, one of her lovers, whom he described as being “very beautiful and wonderful to look at” despite her being ill at the time and “quite decoiffée.” That same evening Barney also took EHA to meet the actress Henriette Roggers, another of her lovers. (25a.) He is also known to have visited her again in 1914, though no details of this meeting are currently available. (25b) Four letters from EHA to Barney are known to have survived (25c) one of which is a very warm letter dated 6th July 1914, in which he enthuses about the work of the English–born poet Pauline Tarn / Renée Vivien (yet another of Barney’s lovers, an alcoholic, a drug–user and an anorexic, who died in 1909 at the early age of 32.) In this letter he hints that he and Barney were planning to write something together about her, though nothing seems to have come of this. There then seems to have been a lengthy break in contact between them, for the next thing we know – from three letters from EHA to Barney written between March and December 1930 – is that he was planning to come to Paris again, and hoped that he would be able to see her. (25c) Clearly then, their friendship was lengthy but not close, which perhaps explains why there is no mention of it in any of the biographies of Barney that I have seen. Unfortunately, there is no reference to Iraïs in any of the letters either.

So how were EHA and Barney involved in the genesis of the novel ? Though Barney was American by birth and spent her early adult life in the USA, she moved to Paris in the late 1890s, was fluent in French and published most of her works in French. One suggestion has been that Barney herself wrote the novel in French, and EHA translated it. But there is no evidence for this. For a start, she wouldn’t have needed a translator, and more to the point, Barney’s works are well documented, but Iraïs is not among them, in French or English, co–authored or otherwise (26a). Furthermore, following the death of her disapproving father in 1902, Barney had no need to use pseudonyms, so “Carina Jacqueline M.” would be oddly out of place in a work published in 1912. (26a) Did EHA, then, write the novel himself and have Barney act as proof–reader and lesbian literary advisor ? This has also been suggested. Personally, I doubt it can have been written by him, even partially, let alone wholly – the text is far more atmospheric and subtle than either the melodramatic story of The Cheetah–Girl or the crudely explicit Hotel Window story. The sex scenes in Iraïs (p.53–8, p.103–4 & p.109–110) are tastefully described and do not dominate the novel as they do in the Hotel Window story. So I would guess that Carina was definitely not EHA, nor, given what was said earlier, Natalie Barney.

At this point, a summary of the plot of the novel is needed. Carina is the name of its schoolgirl heroine, and her story relates to events which occurred between her 16th and 18th birthdays (p.9). She is an orphan but she has a guardian, to whom she refers affectionately as Guardie. It is he who escorts her to the school in Paris (p.12) and who introduces her to a friend of his, a woman called Gabrielle. Like her guardian, Gabrielle had known Carina’s dead parents (p.18). It is Gabrielle who subsequently introduces Carina to Iraïs, the woman with whom she falls deeply in love (p.69f), this after various lesbian dormitory experiments, notably with the English girl Diane (p.51f). But Iraïs drifts away from her, for reasons which are not made clear, and the novel draws to a close with Carina saying, “I think of Iraïs always, and I can’t forget.” (p.182)

In the novel Gabrielle is described as being very beautiful and “the best kind of American” (p.18.) In addition, she has golden hair, blue eyes and writes poems (p.33–4.) Gabrielle, who is both a character in the novel and the person to whom the novel is dedicated (Fig.12), is generally reckoned to be based on Barney, who was indeed beautiful (at least in her younger days), had golden hair & blue eyes (Rodriguez p.35). wrote poetry, and was American. Perhaps I should add, though, that the Gabrielle in the novel may not be the same as the Gabrielle to whom the novel is dedicated: Gabrielle Enthoven, best known for her huge collection of theatrical memorabilia, and a known lesbian friend of EHA’s, has been suggested as a possible dedicatee.

Identifying Iraïs is considerably trickier. Given that she knew Barney and had an affair with Carina, it seems plausible that she was one of Barney’s many lovers (26b). Unfortunately, we are given very little information about Iraïs in the novel, beyond the facts that she had beautiful bronze coloured hair (p.69 & p.102), an exquisite mouth and greenish eyes (p.69), spoke slowly and musically (p.83), and that she wrote books of an unspecified nature, but “rubbish” according to some, with whom, needless to say, the devoted Carina disagreed strongly – p.101–2 (26c). In fact, the above–mentioned Liane de Pougy matches Iraïs quite well, both in physical characteristics (26b) and literary output (26c), but it is so far from certain that she was the original Iraïs, that it is best to say that Iraïs remains unidentified at present. For one thing, Liane was the most famous French courtesan of her day, what we would now call a “celebrity”, so much so that postcards bearing her picture were produced commercially, and were very popular (judging by the number that have survived.) She was variously dubbed the Queen of Love, the Siren of Europe, the Sultana of Sex and – this one is best left in French, I think – “cette horizontale de grande marque.” If Liane was Iraïs, this reputation certainly doesn’t show through in the novel.

Who, then, was Carina Jacqueline M, the author and heroine of the novel ?

My own theory is that the author was a young female protégée of EHA who went to boarding school in Paris, had lesbian experiences there, and had an affair with an older woman who belonged to Natalie Barney’s circle. But whoever she was, she could write – the novel is a curiously haunting one. To date, though, Carina Jacqueline M, like Iraïs, remains unidentified with certainty, though one very promising candidate has emerged.

In 2014 Tim McCann received an email from Michael Prettyman, who was seeking information in relation to an English woman named Jacqueline Maury (1891–1940), an aspiring writer who had been a life–long friend of his great great aunt, the American artist Virginia Yardley (1878–1971.) Both women, Michael said, had belonged to Natalie Barney’s circle in the early days (though, like EHA, neither of them features in Suzanne Rodriguez’s detailed biography of Barney, nor in the sources mentioned in note 24, including ‘the salon map’), and so they must have been peripheral members (25d). Michael had contacted Tim because he had discovered a transatlantic ship’s passenger log dated 1914 in which Jacqueline Maury listed EHA as her closest friend / living relative. This rang some bells with Tim, for in the above–mentioned letters from EHA to Natalie Barney, in one dated 15th March 1930, written from his home in Selsey, and signed, as all his letters to Barney are, ‘Flavian’ (a name derived from a character in Walter Pater’s Marius the Epicurean – see note 19c), he writes:

I see Virginia from time to time, and at rarer intervals Jacqueline, who is becoming middle–aged & almost “grown up”. Virginia is as dainty and adorable and “human” as ever – indeed I think she grows more fascinating every time I see her, & she knows it and is proud of it – at fifty! And I am close upon seventy, & do not feel much older than I did at forty.

In this same letter he says he is planning to come to Paris again to finish some work he started at Laboratoire de Paleontologie back in 1914. But it seems that this visit got delayed, for in his letter dated 30th May 1930, he tells Barney that he isn’t sure when he will get to Paris, but that “Virginia – the darling! – and Jacqueline start thither today.” His visit was further delayed, it seems, for in the last surviving letter, dated 9th December 1930, he is planning a visit in January, adding that, “I am told by Jacqueline that Virginia is back in Paris, but I have not heard from her.”

All this strongly suggests that Jacqueline in the letters is Jacqueline Maury, and that Virginia is Virginia Yardley. A little online sleuthing quickly reveals that Jacqueline had given EHA as her closest friend / living relative in ships’ manifests at least twice on transatlantic voyages, once in 1914 and again in 1921 (27a), so clearly she knew him quite well, and for a number of years. The former manifest tells us that she was English by birth but that her last permanent residence was in Paris, this tying in with knowing Barney, of course. Incidentally, in another ship’s manifest dated 1915, we find Jacqueline Maury and Virginia Yardley travelling from New York to Liverpool together. (27b)

Sharp–eyed readers, recalling that the author of Iraïs was Carina Jacqueline M will already be asking if she was the aspiring writer Jacqueline Maury. Strongly suggesting that she was the author is another passenger manifest dating from 1929, in which Jacqueline’s name is actually given as Jacqueline Carina Maury. (27c) This must surely be more than just coincidence. If Jacqueline was born in 1891, she would have been about 21 in 1912, the year in which the novel was published, time enough for her to have attended a boarding school in Paris (p.12) and to have written of her experiences between her “sixteenth and eighteenth birthdays” (p.9), that is, between about 1907 and 1909, possibly under the tutelage of EHA her “closest friend / living relative.” This would perhaps tie in with Carina in the novel being an orphan, and would perhaps suggest that her guardian was based on EHA, the latter idea being reinforced by the fact that in the novel her guardian actually gives her some advice on its draft text (p.9–10.) Not only that, but at the outset of the novel, when Carina is coming to terms with the loss of Iraïs, she writes of her Guardian:

He is a curiously wise person, and he showed me to–day a passage in a book, which he wrote years before I was born, in which he recommended a young man who had loved and suffered, to write an elaborate essay on the subject, and criticise it from an outsider’s point of view. (p.7)

This corresponds to the advice given by Dr John Tompkins (= EHA) to Sylvester Gray in his novel The Suicide of Sylvester Gray, mentioned earlier:

I suggest – and I trust that you will act upon my suggestion – that you should write out your story – your confession – call it what you will, for your own eyes alone; that you should, in this written narrative, pay the closest attention to the minute details of your case, and that you should give as much literary completeness thereto as possible...My object in advising this course is as follows: ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ ...the most awful thoughts, stated in bald English, lose half their terror. (p.66–7)

Since the novel was published in 1888, it was indeed published several years before Carina was born, in 1891.

But there’s more. Whilst researching EHA’s holiday diaries covering his trip to Florence with his wife and daughters in 1923, Tim McCann happened to turn back to the previous part of the diary in which he described their earlier stay in Rome. (25e) In the entry for 30th March 1923 he tells us that he went “to the Hotel Boston to call upon Virginia Yardley and Carina Maury, who have a nice little apartment there.” (Curiously, in all the 1923 diary entries she is Carina, yet in all the above quoted letters to Natalie Barney of 1930 she is Jacqueline.) On 1st April he called on them again, and on the 7th April he wrote:

I went to a tea party given in my honour by Virginia and Carina, to show off the latter’s mysterious guardian who nobody has ever seen. I am glad to say I expected to give satisfaction & come (or came ?) up to expectation. They are rather a jolly little colony of American & Italian art students.

Now this isn’t as explicit as one would like, but it can certainly be read as Carina introducing EHA as her “mysterious guardian” to the other guests at the tea party, who had presumably long been curious about him on account of the novel.

However, there are several snags in seeing EHA as the guardian of the orphan Carina. For a start, in the novel Carina’s guardian introduces her to Gabrielle. Unfortunately, there is no record of EHA introducing Maury to Barney on any visit to Paris, and indeed the only meeting between EHA and Barney of which we have a record, prior to 1912, is the one of November 1907, mentioned above. Furthermore, there is no direct reference in any of the letters from EHA to Barney, nor in EHA’s diaries, nor anywhere else for that matter, to indicate that Jacqueline Maury actually wrote Iraïs, with or without the help of either EHA or Barney. Indeed, if Jacqueline was EHA’s protégée, why involve Barney at all ? True, she was probably Gabrielle, but where was the real Iraïs in the writing process ?

Nevertheless, this is not the first time that the novel has been linked to the name of Jacqueline Maury, for as long ago as 1936, Rolfe S. Reade named her as such in his Registrum Librorum Eroticorum (#2268), though unfortunately he left no clue as to the sources on which he based his listing.

Jacqueline Maury is a shadowy figure, and at first I could find no trace of her birth in any of the online ancestry records to which I had access, despite knowing from the ship manifests of 1914, 1921 and 1929, cited in notes 27a & 27c, that she was born in Littlehampton, Sussex. But then, as Michael Behrend discovered, there is only one birth of a Jacqueline recorded in Sussex between 1886 and 1896, and she was Jacqueline Carina Blanche Buchanan, who was born in the second quarter of 1891. More specifically, records show that she was baptised at Littlehampton on 28 June 1891. Jacqueline Maury’s absence in the usual birth records would be explained if she had, for example, married a man with the surname Maury in France prior to publication of the novel in 1912 (there is no record of any such marriage in England, and the name Maury does have a French flavour to it) or she had changed her name for some other reason. Be that as it may, we find Jacqueline Buchanan in the 1901 census, age 9, living in Arundel, Sussex, with her father, Alexander Constantine Walter Buchanan, a hairdresser and shop–keeper; her mother, Charlotte Blanche Bone Buchanan; and a younger brother and sister. The plot thickens when, in the 1911 census we find Jacqueline Buchanan, age 19, single, living with her mother and sister, back in Littlehampton, Sussex, with her profession being listed as “actress”. The year of this census being only one year before the publication of the novel renders it unlikely that she had married in France in the interim. Was Maury, then, her stage–name ? Unfortunately, I can find no record of Jacqueline Maury the actress. So where does this get us in judging how closely or otherwise she fits the Carina of the novel ? The answer, alas, is not very far. True, in the novel, Iraïs says to an impressed third person, “Yes, Carina always was a wonderful actress” (p.173), but this is in the context of her recitation of a love poem by an unnamed French poet, which Carina deivers whilst looking at Iraïs. Again, in the novel, Carina’s father was a penniless poet who became in turn “a barrister, a house–decorator, a circus rider, a soldier” (p.10), whereas Jacqueline Buchanan’s father was a hairdresser and shop–keeper. In addition, in the novel, Carina’s grandfather was French, and her mother “passionately loved a beautiful Italian woman” (p.10) Clearly online records will tell us nothing about the Italian woman, but they do tell us that Jacqueline Buchanan did not have a French grandfather – her paternal grandfather was Scottish (her father had been born in Aberdeen) and her maternal grandfather was a Sussex–born fisherman. Again, in the novel, Carina’s parents are dead, whereas Jacqueline Buchanan’s parents died long after the novel was published – her mother died in Worthing, Sussex, in 1943, aged 77, and her father in North Bierley, Yorkshire, in 1937, aged 72. She was no orphan, then, plus this rather begs the question of why, if both her parents were still alive (and presumably living in England), Jacqueline Maury (without a Carina or a Blanche) cited EHA as her closest friend or relative in the UK in the ships’ manifests of 1914 and 1921, cited in note 27a. Does this, perhaps, denote a family rift of some sort ? And, given what we know of her family, would they have been wealthy enough to send her to a boarding school in Paris ? Hopefully more information will come to light in due course via the ongoing family researches of Michael Prettyman.

And, of course, in all this, the key question remains: who was the real Iraïs ? As stated above, it is possible that she was Liane de Pougy, as several things in the novel do fit her. Unfortunately it remains a fact that Liane left no record of having a fling with with either Jacqueline Carina Maury or Jacqueline Carina Buchanan.

But to return to the place of Iraïs in the context of EHA’s literary output, though it is technically speaking a homoerotic novel, it remains totally different from the hotel window story. Many men – both heterosexual and homosexual – are intrigued by lesbianism and (at least the former) find lesbian sex arousing (28), so even if EHA did have a hand in the novel, it wouldn’t prove anything. It is interesting that in one of the above–mentioned (25c) letters from EHA to Barney (letter dated 6 July 1914), he mentions giving away copies of one of Renée Vivien’s books, A l’Heure des Moins Jointes (1906); in another (that dated 15 March 1930), he mentions his being enthusiastic about Radclyffe Hall’s lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness (1928), which was banned in Britain; and in a third (that dated 30 May 1930), he mentions his looking forward to the appearance of Barney’s own novel – he doesn’t name it, but he must mean The One who is Legion, actually her only novel, published in 1930. Plus, Merlin Holland has inherited from his father’s library a copy of Renée Vivien’s Poèmes en Prose (1909) with EHA’s 1925 bookplate in it. All of this suggests that some of the residents of EHA’s cabinet of erotica may well have been lesbian literature. Finally, the mother of the Cheetah–Girl, remember, was a lesbian, so lesbianism clearly did have a fascination for him, in the story at a ‘scientific’ level, it is true, but, as we saw above, at a voyeuristic level as well: “I have often seen two women actually fuck one another.” Incidentally, one would assume that EHA saw such a performance on one of his visits to Paris. Interestingly, such an exhibition is described in the novel Teleny, about which we shall have more to say later.

(v) Science Fact & Science Fiction – Fabius Zachary Snoop.

But to return to the Blayre stories: there is some evidence that EHA was not above impishly mingling science fact with science fiction, for in the July 28th 1921 issue of the prestigious journal Nature (p.677–8), a letter appeared from the Professor of Biology at Cosmopoli University complaining about Dr Blayre’s publication of a story based on his researches. (The journal had noted The Purple Sapphire in its “Books Received” column in the issue of July 9th 1921, p.479 – ironically featuring it alongside The Scientific Papers of the Hon. Henry Cavendish F.R.S..!) This appears not to have raised any eyebrows, despite the fact that the ‘Professor’ came from a non–existent university.

Then, in the December 2nd 1922 issue of the same journal (p.738–9), an anonymous article on “Human Blood Relationships” appeared. It dealt mainly with modern discoveries about blood–transfusions and the necessity of compatible blood–groups, but it mentioned, in passing, some early experiments in transfusion using sheep’s blood, this leading to the realisation that “the tissues of any one species of animal are foreign and more or less poisonous to the economy of any other species.” This prompted a response from Christopher Blayre, in the form of a letter relating to inter–species breeding, which was published in the December 23rd 1922 issue of the same journal (p.846). In it he referred to the speculations of “the late Alphonse Milne–Edwards” who, as reported in Sir Ray Lankester’s book Secrets of Earth and Sea (1920; p.141), had “proposed to inject one species by ‘serums’ extracted from the other, in such a way as seemed most likely to bring the chemical state of their reproductive elements into harmony.” EHA’s – sorry, Christopher Blayre’s – letter seems to have prompted no response, despite the eminent status of Lankester, and the issue seems to have been quietly dropped.

Such shenanigans lend some support to the theory that another of EHA’s disguises was Fabius Zachary Snoop, the author of Reproduction and Sexual Evolution – from the Protozoa to the Primates – a Popular Explanation (1926) and From the Monotremes to the Madonna – a Study of the Breast in Culture and Religion (1928).

The former book, in a nutshell, proposes that the penis and the vagina represent the pinnacle of evolution in respect of the efficient propagation of species – indeed, that they denote “the operation of some transcendent force, a force which may be called God, or Love, or Evolution, or any other name you will” (p.84) – that is, more than can be explained by either Darwin or Lamarck. The latter book is more or less explained by its title, though we encounter some curious side–issues in it – for example that falling in love is a “curious neurosis” (p.27), that the missionary position is “the civilised mode of coition” (p.58) and that the mystic is nearly always a man “who is searching for an ideal mother.”(p.59 & p.128) The knowledge of physiology, biology and zoology in both books is certainly reminiscent of that in The Cheetah–Girl and the letters in Nature. In the former, the mention of the foraminifera (p.70) recalls EHA’s studies; and in the latter, references to Burton’s Arabian Nights (p.37) and to cheiromancy (p.38) likewise reflect EHA’s interests. Indeed, the reference to “the powdered bosoms of the Piccadilly wanton” (Monotremes p.98) arguably recalls Menagerie Sal in The Cheetah–Girl (p.264f.)

Whoever the author was, he was clearly what we would now call a “breast man.” He had done a detailed study of the female breast in art (Monotremes p.20f – eg “Rubens could indeed paint bosoms”) and he had a remarkable knowledge of the breast in literature (Monotremes p.46f – eg “Turgent paps are potent enticers” from The Arabian Nights.) Plus, intentionally or not, it is difficult to say, but the books make some curiously funny statements that smack of the author’s tongue being in his cheek at least some of the time. Thus, for example, in Reproduction we read that “the saddest word in botany is the banana” (p.46), and in Monotremes he says that “if next Christmas when the turkey arrives on the table you ask for a slice off the bosom the air may suddenly turn chilly.”(p.12) Again in Monotremes, the author wonders why we are happy to call girls Daisy, Violet or Rose but “we do not call boys Rhododendron and Holyhock and Cabbage.” (p.95–6) In other words, the books may not be entirely serious. On the other hand, if they were written in jest, the jest was a very elaborate one indeed.

But was EHA the author ? Perhaps not surprisingly, there is no trace whatever of Fabius Zachary Snoop on a world–wide search of ancestry websites. But that is not necessarily significant, as the almost equally odd name, Cornelius F. Snoop (a carpenter of Dutch origin born in 1878, if you must know), did turn up. But as regards FZS being EHA in disguise, some doubts nag at me, for it seems to me quite likely that the author of these books was a doctor. In Monotremes, for example, he demonstrates considerable knowledge about the training of a general practitioner (p.20); he knows a lot about the state of the female breast during pregnancy (p.63); and he “knew a midwife in the slums of Liverpool who gained a great reputation for her treatment of cracked nipples.”(p.116) Again, in Reproduction, he tells us how “a patient, intensely erotic but unsatisfied, once explained to me, in language more picturesque than genteel, that he felt like bursting.” (p74.) It is worth noting, though, that in The Suicide of Sylvester Gray EHA did picture himself as John Tompkins M.D. But even if F.Z. Snoop was EHA in disguise, and these books again indicate a preoccupation with sex, it is purely heterosexual, and the “homosexual characteristics” in some birds and beasts are dubbed “this depravity.” (Reproduction p.34.)

But there is one other piece to this jigsaw. Merlin Holland inherited a copy of Monotremes from his father, Vyvyan, and in it is written the following inscription: “To Vyvyan, Expert, Authority, Connoisseur and Cultivator. From Flavian, Tyro, Postulant and Student. Aug. 1928.” Flavian, as we saw earlier, was EHA’s adopted name when writing to Natalie Barney and it was also the name with which Vyvyan Holland addressed EHA in letters. As can be seen from Fig.13, the inscription is in EHA’s handwriting. But does this demonstrate that EHA wrote the book, or does it simply show that EHA gave a copy of the book to his friend, Vyvyan Holland ?

Also in Merlin’s collection is another book given to his father by EHA, Brave Old Britain and Other Verse by L. Blaber, published in 1926. In it is another inscription in EHA’s handwriting: “‘I have no hesitation in saying that, in the verdict of posterity, this volume will rank with the works of John Litart and Amanda M. Ros.’ Ephraim Pugsbook in the ‘The Shlushton Athenaeum.’” (Fig.14) The inscription is clearly a mock book review designed to amuse Vyvyan, but did EHA give him the copy of the book because he wrote it, or did he give to him simply because the book amused him and he knew it would amuse Vyvyan as well ? I do not know much about John Litart, I’m afraid, beyond the fact that he published two volumes of long–forgotten verse in about 1890, but the mention of Amanda M[cKittrick] Ros is an excellent clue to what is going on here, She was one of those truly awful poets who, like the better known William McGonagall, thought that she was truly wonderful. EHA clearly thought that L. Blaber’s excursions into verse were on a par with those of Amanda, and he thought that Vyvyan would share his ‘enthusiasm’.

So, did EHA give the copy of Monotremes to Vyvyan for a similar reason: not because he wrote it, but because he thought it would “tickle his fancy” ? Personally, I think the latter. Vyvyan, like EHA, had the reputation of a ladies’ man in the 1920s, and both collected erotic literature, one aspect of which – the appreciation of the female breast – surely had its champion analyst in this curious book by Fabius Zachary Snoop.

(vi) Teleny.

But there’s more. Literary rumour has it that EHA might have been one of the authors of the homosexual novel Teleny: or, the Reverse of the Medal – a Physiological Romance of To-day, the story of the ill–fated passion of a young Frenchman, Camille des Grieux, for a Hungarian pianist called René Teleny. (29a) It was first published in 1893 by Leonard Smithers (though he is not named on its title page) in a two volume limited edition of 200 copies, under the fictional imprint of (here it is again) “Cosmopoli.” (Fig.15) As we shall see, it was probably written in about 1890. (29b) How, where or when the rumour arose that EHA was involved in its authorship I have so far been unable to discover. It is not known for certain who wrote Teleny, but the now ‘traditional’ view is that it was written as a collaborative effort, round–robin style, by some of Oscar Wilde’s homosexual literary associates, possibly with some editorial input from Wilde himself. The ‘traditional view’ is well worth summarising here.

It centres on the London premises of a French bookseller named Charles Hirsch, who is the sole source of our information. He knew Wilde as a customer, he said, and one day in 1890 Wilde came into the shop with a package which he said a friend would collect. The friend duly collected it, and sometime later returned it to the shop, leaving it for another friend to collect. This went on until one of the friends returned the package minus its wrapper, at which point the curious Hirsch could see that it was a homoerotic novel written by several different hands. The manuscript was apparently returned to Wilde, and subsequently published by Leonard Smithers, as indicated above. After the death of Smithers in 1907, the manuscript passed into the hands of a mutual friend of Hirsch and Smithers, named Duringe, who lent it to Hirsch to arrange for a French translation of it. This was subsequently issued in a two volume limited edition of 300 copies published in Paris in 1934. It was now titled Teleny – Étude Physiologique (“the Reverse of the Medal” was apparently a subtitle added by Smithers), and it was published for the Ganymede Club of Paris. It was in the ‘Notice Bibliographique’ of this edition that Hirsch set down the foregoing story of the manuscript being written round–robin style with the involvement of Wilde and his friends; of its subsequent acquisition by Duringe; and of its final translation by himself. What happened to the original hand–written manuscript, after Hirsch had finished with it, is shrouded in mystery.

Though Wilde’s name is linked to Teleny, it receives no mention in Stuart Mason’s monumental bibliography of Wilde’s works (5). Furthermore, none of Wilde’s extant letters, most particularly to Smithers, refer to it (though many of his letters to Smithers are known to be “widely scattered.” (29c)) The earliest recorded letter to Smithers dates from July 1888, and concerns the short story of “The Happy Prince.” The next letter, marked “Strictly Private,” dates from August 1897, and in it Wilde writes, “I hope very much that some day I shall have something that you will like well enough to publish.” (29c) Would he have said this in a “Strictly Private” letter if he had already had dealings with Smithers over Teleny, even if it had been an ‘under the counter’ or ‘underground’ publication ? Nor is it known how Smithers got hold of the manuscript (there is no explanatory Introduction to the Smithers edition), and it has to be admitted that he could be a devious character at times. Plus the only ‘eye–witness’ account we have of the genesis of the novel is that of Charles Hirsch – so far as I know, there is no evidence from any other source to corroborate his story (though the contributing authors to such a pornographic text are hardly likely to have courted publicity.) All this, plus the fact that the original manuscript has ‘gone missing’, has raised suspicions in some quarters as to whether Wilde really had any hand in it at all, as Wilde’s name has so often been (mis)appropriated to help sell books. (29d) I have to say, though, that to my mind Hirsch’s account does have the ring of truth to it – it is not in the least ‘sensational’, and I find it difficult to believe that it is pure invention. Be that as it may, the field is open for speculation as regards possible collaborators, and in the absence of handwriting analysis (the present location of the original manuscript, assuming it still exists, being unknown) much of that speculation must remain just that, be it in respect of Wilde or EHA.

We certainly know that EHA was a friend of Oscar Wilde before his downfall in 1895. Three letters from Wilde to EHA have survived, all dating from 1887 or earlier, including one requesting a horoscope for their first son, Cyril, in 1885! (30a). He is also known from his diaries to have been on visiting terms with Wilde and his wife, Constance, in 1885–6. Indeed, it is said that whilst EHA became rather enamoured of Constance, Oscar became rather enamoured of EHA! (30b) So, it is not totally out of the question, given the hotel window story, that EHA was involved in Teleny in c.1890, though equally there is no firm evidence for it either. (31) It is intriguing that EHA makes no mention anywhere of Wilde after his downfall (except in the fictional context of The Cheetah–Girl, as quoted above), nor of his wife Constance, so his views on the events of 1895 remain unknown. But he can hardly have stood by Wilde, given his silence, given his denunciation of Le Gallienne, and given his denunciation of Millard, Rolfe and Fox. And yet he went on to write that hotel window story.

(vii) Concluding Remarks

As Tim McCann told me in an email dated 25th April 2017:

When I first came to Chichester in the 60s and expressed an interest in Heron–Allen, I was assured by a native of Selsey (not known for their affection for EHA) that he was a homosexual who painted his face. A fellow Society member tells me he thinks that EHA was a closet bisexual.

Rumour and hearsay, of course, but it is suggestive all the same. Not that one would condemn EHA if it were indeed true – that is not the point. The point is, to bring us back to where we started, that EHA condemned Rolfe for penning “the most filthy & detailed descriptions of homosexual lust”, a sin of which he himself was far more guilty in penning the Hotel Window story. Much as I admire the works of EHA, particularly his Rubaiyat studies, and indeed will continue to admire them, this episode reveals an aspect of EHA which, despite my efforts, I find difficult to understand, let alone to justify. And just to compound matters, I can quite imagine EHA denying ever having written it, despite it being in his own handwriting. I say this on account of a comment made about EHA by Vyvyan Holland in his Time Remembered after Père Lachaise (1966):

Heron–Allen was a great character and possessed to a remarkable degree the power of dismissing from his mind any fact that was not to his liking. On one occasion I produced a letter on his own notepaper and in his own handwriting to prove to him that he had been, to say the least of it, indiscreet. He just looked me in the eye and said: “No, I never wrote that,” and he believed what he said. (p.129–130)


(1) Though there was little in print about Rolfe in the mid 1920s, there was certainly a growing interest in him. As Tim Smith told me in a personal email of 10th June 2017:

Heron–Allen probably heard a bit about Rolfe from his fellow–members in the Sette of Odd Volumes: George Williamson (whose son Cuthbert had some of Rolfe’s photographs originally given by Rolfe to John Gambril Nicholson), Hugh Walpole (whose Rolfe collection is in Bodleian), Ralph Straus (who’d written a queer novel under the pseudonym of Ralph Strode, Heart’s Mystery (super rare)).

You’re right about there being nothing in print on Rolfe until 1924 but there was a good deal of interest in him. A. T. Bartholomew, a Cambridge librarian, had been planning to write his life since 1918; for more about the Cambridge enthusiasts, see Robert Scoble, The Corvo Cult (2014).

The Sette of Odd Volumes was an exclusive society of bibliophiles founded by Bernard Quaritch in London in 1878.

Scoble’s Corvo Cult gives an excellent overview of the growth and evolution of the interest in Corvo and his works.

(2a) In what follows, unless otherwise stated, page numbers refer to the 1979 Penguin Books edition. Incidentally, the front cover of this edition bears the title The Quest for Corvo: Genius or Charlatan ? The sub–title is, I think, very apt.

(2b) Donald Weeks, Corvo: Saint or Madman ? (1971); Miriam J. Benkovitz, Frederick Rolfe: Baron Corvo (1977); and Robert Scoble, Raven: The Turbulent World of Baron Corvo (2013).

(3) The centre pages of Millard’s catalogue, summarising the letters, bore the headings, (left) “‘The Raven and the Fox’: Unpublished Letters of”, & (right) “Frederick William Rolfe, Baron Corvo.” Corvo is the Italian for Raven, this bird being Rolfe’s adopted emblem, as detailed in Appendix 15.

(4) Charles Masson Fox (1866–1935) – note the double s in his middle name – was a timber merchant from Falmouth, not Plymouth, who had met Rolfe in Venice in 1909. Rolfe’s notorious “Venice Letters” were sent to Fox after he had returned to Falmouth. Fox was eventually ruined via the blackmailing partnership of a woman and her young son, the latter passing on useful information to the former about his various ‘suitors.’ As a result of Fox’s courageous stand in the face of impending ruin, however, the corrupt mother and son were prosecuted for blackmail and sent to prison. [See Timothy d’Arch Smith’s account in his excellent study Love in Earnest – Some Notes on the Lives and Writings of English ‘Uranian’ Poets from 1889 to 1930 (1970), p.129.]

(5) Stuart Mason, A Bibliography of Oscar Wilde (1914), which remains a truly impressive piece of work, even today. [Previously, under the same pseudonym, he had published A Bibliography of the Poems of Oscar Wilde (1907).] Under the pseudonym of Stuart Mason, he also published The Oscar Wilde Calendar: a Quotation from the Works of Oscar Wilde for every Day of the Year (1910) and Art and Morality: a Record of the Discussion which followed the Publication of ‘Dorian Gray’ (1912). For a detailed account of Millard / Mason and his various books, see H. Montgomery Hyde, Christopher Sclater Millard (Stuart Mason) – Bibliographer & Antiquarian Book Dealer (1990).

(6) Millard was imprisoned twice for what was then called “gross indecency” – firstly in 1906, for 3 months with hard labour, and secondly in 1918, for one year, but without hard labour, on health grounds. See Montgomery Hyde’s biography of Millard, cited in note 5 above, p.18–9 and p.49–52.

(7) I do not know to whom EHA is referring here. Some of the names mentioned in this article, and in Appendix 15, are obvious possibilities, but I have seen nothing in print to date. Tim Smith has suggested, in a personal email, that EHA may have got wind of the accusations verbally, via his fellow members of the Sette of Odd Volumes. [Cf note 1 above.]

(8) In Notes and Queries, 14 January 1933 (p.29) an American by the name of Israel Baer Kraut, who was preparing a life of Rolfe for an academic thesis, bemoaned “a definite paucity of material” about him, and made an appeal for help. In response, a short article by EHA, ‘Frederick W. Rolfe’, appeared in Notes and Queries, 29 April 1933 (p.305.) In full, it read:

A remarkable study of this man by Shane Leslie, appeared in the London Mercury (vol. viii, 1923, pp.507–518). It is not surprising that the announcement of his death on 23 Oct., 1913 (sic) which appeared in The Times on 23 Oct., 1923, ended with the words “Cujus animae propitietur Deus.” Your correspondent should endeavour to obtain the Catalogue No. 14, issued in February 1926 by “Christopher Millard” (who as “Stuart Mason,” compiled a bibliography of Oscar Wilde). This contained a four–page “fly–leaf” advertising for sale a series of eighteen letters and five postcards in the autograph of “Baron Corvo.” What became of them I do not know, but it was a piece of amazing effrontery to offer them for sale. The price asked was £65.

I edited a second edition of Corvo’s so–called “translation” of Omar Khayyam for John Lane in 1924, a frequently filthy paraphrase of the translation into French prose by Nicolas, published in 1867. I did not scruple to point out what an abominable production this was. It is perhaps a unique instance of an editor “flaying” his author.

The “(sic)” is in the original article, and there is clearly something odd going on with dates here which requires some explanation. Rolfe died on 25 October 1913 (according to the inscription on his grave) but the notice of his death cited by EHA appeared in the “In Memoriam” column on the front page of The Times on 23 Oct 1923, to mark the tenth anniversary of his death. It read:

Rolfe – On the 23rd Oct., 1913, at Venice, Frederick William Rolfe (Baron Corvo), aged 53. Cuius animae propitietur Deus.

The Latin inscription, which sometimes has “anime” for “animae,” is often to be found on old gravestones. It is basically the equivalent of, “May God have mercy on his soul” (literally, “of whose soul may God be propitiated.”)

A notice of Rolfe’s death did appear in The Times, a few days after his death, on 28 October 1913 (p.8), under the heading, “An Englishman’s Death in Venice.” It read:

A Reuter telegram from Venice says that Mr. Frederick Rolfe, of London, a writer on historical subjects, has been found dead in his apartments by a friend.

Mr Frederick Rolfe is presumably Frederick William S. A. L. M. Rolfe, the author of “Chronicles of the House of Borgia,” “Hadrian the Seventh,” “Studies in Roman History,” and other works.

The letters “S.A.L.M.” denote Serafino Austin Lewis Mary, names which Rolfe used for ‘added effect’. (Modesty was not one of his strong points.)

A formal (and prosaic!) announcement of Rolfe’s death, presumably inserted by his brother, Herbert, did appear in the “Deaths” column on the front page of The Times on 11 November 1913. It read:

Rolfe – On the 25th Oct., at Venice, suddenly of paralysis of the heart, Frederick William Rolfe, eldest son of the late James Rolfe of London and of Ellen Rolfe of Broadstairs.

My thanks are due to Tim McCann and John P. Mahoney (who have a complete collection of EHA’s 300+ contributions to Notes and Queries) for alerting me to the existence of this one.

So far as I have been able to ascertain, Israel Baer Kraut’s thesis was not done. Perhaps what seemed like a good idea for a thesis in 1933 seemed not such a good idea after the publication of Symons’s seminal biography in 1934 ?

(9) See Timothy d’Arch Smith in his entertaining book, The Times Deceas’d – the Rare Book Department of The Times Bookshop in the 1960s (2011), p.42 & p.45–6. Tim expanded on this in a personal email of 9 March 2017:

The evidence that Symons ‘bought’ the letters for £25 (actually he never fully paid) is from Millard’s cash book which survives in private hands. Symons sold them to the honours broker, Maundy Gregory. Gregory disposed of them (probably) to the booksellers Elkin Mathews who (probably) sold them to the polymath and linguist, C. K. Ogden. After his death Ogden’s library was acquired by Dawson’s of Pall Mall and sold via Lawrence Clark Powell (who tells the story in his book, Books in My Baggage) to U.C.L.A. However Dawson’s kept some MSS back including the Venice Letters which were bought by the manuscript dealer, Winifred Myers. She sold them to the American lady booksellers Hamill & Barker who sold them to Texas. The best letter (the one where Rolfe is in the wine shop with Amadeo and the somnambulist barman) has been stolen.

The relevant pages of Millard’s cash book are pictured in Scoble’s Corvo Cult p.268. The Amadeo letter mentioned here is letter 6 in Woolf. Some of the sexual activity in it took place in a bar whilst the proprietor slept. U.C.L.A. is the University of California, Los Angeles.

(10) See also Donald Weeks, Corvo: Saint or Madman, p.304–334; Miriam J. Benkovitz, Frederick Rolfe: Baron Corvo, p.249–251; Robert Scoble, The Corvo Cult, p.16–7; and Timothy d’Arch Smith, Love in Earnest, p.129–130.

(11a) The bohemian lawyer Errington Welch–Kennard (11b), who had done a translation of Omar Khayyam, had been a palm–reader in New York, and had been enamoured of a singer there (11c), is clearly (in part) based on EHA. He is also based on Arthur Newton, the somewhat dubious character who had acted as a solicitor for Alfred Taylor, the co–defendant of Oscar Wilde in the trial of 1895, and who later acted as the solicitor for Dr.Crippen, apparently planning to ship him off to the States for a money–making publicity tour if he escaped the charge of murder! Julia Frankau apparently knew both Newton and EHA, the latter, perhaps, via her lover, Henry Morris, who collected violins (another link with EHA), and who, in 1903, lived only a stone’s throw from EHA’s Northwick Terrace address in St John’s Wood.

The book is rarely seen on the market today, though it is available as a “print on demand” copy. A good account of the book is given in The Frankaus, p.114–120. For Arthur Newton, see ib. p.154–7.

(11b) As Tim Smith says in The Frankaus, Errington Welch–Kennard is “a name that cries out for anagrammatical analysis.” (p.114) The problem is, of course, that though one can get Newton from the letters of Errington Welch–Kennard, there is no u for Arthur; and though one can get Edward Heron–Allen from the letters, one can only do it only by using some letters more than once, and some not at all (i, g and k remain unused for both EHA & Newton’s names.)

(11c) She was Selina Dolaro, an actress, singer, writer and theatre director, with whom EHA is know to have collaborated (though to an unclear degree!) on her book Mes Amours: Poems Passionate and Playful (1888) – see The Queen of Bohemia and the Poems and Passions of the Boy Omar: Selena Dolaro and Edward Heron–Allen’s Mes Amours by John P. Mahoney and Barbara P. Mahoney in Opusculum XIX of the Heron–Allen Society, 2013, p.23–35. She was 22 years older than EHA, and he is said to have written one of the amatory poems addressed to her which are included in the book – hence he was her “young Omar.” (p.30) In later years, after Dolaro’s death, EHA rather dismissed the book as something of a literary forgery and a bit of a lark (p.32), but whether this was really so or just a case of dismissing a youthful folly, is not clear. See also Ship Stink, Immigrants and Hypersomnia – a Tale of Ex–Palmist Edward Heron–Allen and the Castle Garden Affair, by John P. Mahoney and Barbara P. Mahoney in Opusculum XXIII of the Heron–Allen Society, 2016, p.17.

(12a) The letter to the Editor of The Pall Mall Gazette was published on 27th December 1896. In it he complained about “the revolting and degrading spectacle afforded by the ‘Ladies Bicycle Races’ at Olympia.” Actually his concern was more for their safety than for any immodesty involved. He went on:

I think, with many reasonable men and women, that there are few things more fascinating than to see a finely–built and perfectly–trained woman doing feats of pure skill, on a bicycle, or trapeze, or on any machine that she controls by herself and can count upon; but I think that to see half a dozen young women scouring round what is even to the amateur cyclist’s eye a very dangerous track, to see them at intervals flung off and obviously hurt, and to realise that one mistake by any one of them might fling the whole half dozen into a confusion of mangled and lacerated flesh, is to my mind a bestial and loathly display.

My thanks are due to Tim McCann for supplying a copy of this letter.

(12b) On a visit to the Moulin Rouge on 27th October 1907 he describes seeing a tableau at the end of the first act of which:

...a very beautifully shaped woman poses and dances quite stark–naked, but for a wide–open network of gold tinsel & a shawl of transparent gold tissue which she drapes round herself now and then. In the final tableau she is hidden by scenery to the waist but above it has nothing on at all, not even the network. I never thought that I should see anything so casual on the public stage in my lifetime.

But then at the Folies Bergère on the 29th October 1907 he saw:

...a rather undressed ballet–divertissement (but nakedness on the stage does not strike me as odd now–a–days.)

[Ref for both quotes: West Sussex Record Office, Heron–Allen MS.]

We also know that on another visit to the Folies Bergère on 20th May 1914 he bought a ticket for the front stalls from which, as he put it, “I never saw so many naked young women on any stage before.” See John E. Whittaker, In the Footsteps of Alcide d’Orbigny: Heron–Allen’s visit to Paris and La Rochelle, May 1914 in Opusculum XXII of the Heron–Allen Society (2015), p.49–50.

(12c) In his Holiday Diary from Pertisau, 13 July 1931, EHA wrote:

Strolled along the lake shore which is strewn with young and old of both sexes in every stage of undress. The way they undress on the paths or a field yards from it on the grass is cynical. There they just lie about, practically naked, very few go into the water. Rather embarrassing for a fully clothed pedestrian, one feels ‘de trop’.

Again, in his Holiday Diary from Pertisau, 22 July 1931, he wrote:

Very few ‘sea bathers’ today, but one rather devastating little signora (?) in a very ‘lido’ green bathing dress – what there was of it.

Actually, this last comment can be interpreted as much as a covert lustful approval as a prudish disapproval, as indeed can his comment made, in his diary entry for 24th July 1931, in response to yet more ‘bathers’: “one becomes a Connoisseur of Curves – though at first it is embarrassing.”

[Ref for all three quotes: West Sussex Record Office, Heron–Allen MS. 1/2/1/27]

(13) This information, and that in note 14 below, is taken from EHA’s holiday diary for 1931, housed in the West Sussex Record Office at Chichester (Heron–Allen MS. 1/2/1.27.)

(14a) EHA’s handwriting at this date can be tricky to read. It is possible that the title reads “The Man and the Bag”, in which case the story has nothing to do with the Hotel Window story, and Joan Antrobus becomes a red herring.

(14b) The problem is not just EHA’s handwriting, but he actually often appears uncertain as to how to spell a name given to him, one assumes, in a verbal introduction. Consequently, some of his spellings seem to be phonetic. He appears to have first encountered Mrs L and Joan Antrobus at the Hotel Alpenhof, Pertisau, on 12th July 1931, but this was not the first time he had met Mrs L. In his diary he wrote:

Came in at 11.15 for letters and got caught by a nice–looking old Lady (here with an unhappy looking companion who smokes incessantly) whose face seemed familiar. Fraternise on bitten legs & Skitakura. Find that I took her into dinner somewhere when she was a girl (1892 or 3) & she has never forgotten it (!) I appear to have talked “Fiddles” to her (she was a violinist – name Ruth Lucas) & sent her some of my Fiddle opuscula, which she still cherishes. And we are here again. I am not so deaf as she is. (I now learn that she is Mrs Louisada [or Lusiada] & her friend is Joan Antrobus.) Strolled about mindlessly etc etc

On 21st July EHA “did a ‘laying–on of hands’ for Mrs Lousada’s (sic) paralysed arm which was hurting her.” On the 25th & 26th July she is Mrs Louisada again.

Fortunately, Mrs L can be identified via ancestry websites. As EHA indicates, before marriage she was Ruth Lucas, born in London in 1868. In 1904 she married London solicitor Herbert George Lousada, a widower some 22 years her senior, who was to die in 1918. Ruth herself died in Burgess Hill, Sussex (about 10 miles north of Brighton) in 1942.

Skitakura (or S’kitakura) was an ointment for insect bites whose recipe was devised by EHA, and which was manufactured for him by a local chemist, Selsey being peculiarly plagued by mosquitoes and horseflies, it seems! See Tim McCann’s article, “S’kitakura: or Science with a Sting” in the Heron–Allen Society Newsletter no.8 (Spring, 2006), p.5–6.

(14c) I have attempted to trace Joan Antrobus via online ancestry websites, but have only managed to find one candidate, and she a very uncertain one at that – Joan Frances Antrobus, the daughter of Walter Guy Antrobus and Kathleen Frances Antrobus (née Broadwood.) They had married in late 1907, and their daughter was born in 1913. What makes her at first glance an unlikely candidate for JA is that she would have been only about 18 when EHA told her the story. However, as detailed in section (iv), EHA seems to have freely discussed lesbianism with a young woman of a similar age, Jacqueline Maury, so maybe the youth of this Joan Antrobus is not such a problem. On the plus side, also, though the Antrobus family lived mostly in South Africa, the father was a farmer with London business connections, and, when over in England, they seem often to have stayed at 52 Wilbury Road, Hove, Sussex, with Kathleen’s unmarried sister, Ruth Emily Broadwood, who lived there for many years, much of it with their parents, Colonel Arthur Broadwood (died 1928) and Mary Frances Broadwood (died 1925). The Broadwood family was clearly wealthy, judging by the probate records (Col. Broadwood left just over £140,000 at his death, a huge amount in today’s terms.) Hove, of course, is just a few miles down the coast from Large Acres, Selsey, the house in which EHA lived from about 1907, though it is to be stressed that nothing has yet come to light to actually link EHA with either the Broadwood or the Antrobus families.

(15) For the “locked Case A containing all the Victorian pornographic literature”, see Edward Heron–Allen: a Talk delivered by his grandson Ivor E. Jones at the first Edward Heron–Allen Symposium, Chichester, July 2001 [Opusculum II of the Heron–Allen Society, 2002.], p.14. For “A filthy mind is a continual feast,” see ib. p.15.

(16) At this point there is an interesting phenomenon to be considered. In his book The Times Deceas’d (2011), Tim Smith mentions the phenomenon of married men with a “disposition for homosexual buccaneering” – the collection of homosexual literature alongside their often quite different mainstream literary interests. As Tim puts it, it is “not at all unusual, in my experience, with the conjugally suited.” (p.53.) Was EHA one such, and is that a key part of the mystery of his cabinet of erotica ? The ‘buccaneering’ doesn’t necessarily mean that the collector is a homosexual, experienced or latent, merely that he is intrigued by homosexual literature. To add a personal note, though I am a happy heterosexual who could watch the girls go by all day without giving the boys a second glance, I do find some homosexual literature interesting – the Byronic forgery Don Leon, for example, and Anthony Reid’s extraordinary anthology, The Eternal Flame, volume 1 of which contains his homoerotic version of The Rubaiyat. But it is essentially an interest in ‘alien fields’, I think, much as, despite being an atheist, I found religious medals of such absorbing interest as to write a book about them. I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to buy any homosexual book rarities, and I certainly wouldn’t sit down to write, even experimentally, a story of the likes of the ‘hotel window.’ But perhaps EHA did, I don’t know. But whether he did or he didn’t, there remains that blatant contradiction between EHA’s condemnation of Rolfe, Fox and Millard, and his clear interest in what he saw from his hotel window. It is difficult not to see this contradiction either as, at best, a U–turn or at worst, a hypocritical denunciation, “homosexual buccaneering” or otherwise.

(17) See, for example, The Le Gallienne versus Heron–Allen Incident by John P. Mahoney and Barbara P. Mahoney, in Opusculum XVII of the Heron–Allen Society, 2011, p.18–40. At the heart of the dispute was something which EHA said in private about Le Gallienne, but which later got reported to Le Gallienne himself. The exact details are not known, but, going off a letter from EHA to Le Gallienne’s solicitor, dated 14 February 1893, it seems to have been related to Le Gallienne’s “personal appearance and manner”, to which, by the time the story reached Le Gallienne, had been added an accusation of “the commission of unnatural offences”, which EHA denied ever saying (p.20.) Again, in a letter to E.H. Whinfield, dated 19th Feb 1897, EHA wrote of Le Gallienne: “I have a lively objection to that young man, his bisexual French pseudonym, and all his works.” [Quoted in my E.H. Whinfield – a Provisional Biography.]

(18) There is a typescript copy of EHA’s Will, dated 29th March 1936, in the West Sussex Record Office, reference Heron–Allen MS 1/7/6. There is also a photocopy of the actual Will, plus ten codicils, at the WSRO, reference Heron–Allen MS 1/7/7. The bequest of his Rubaiyat collection to the London Library is in codicil #7.

(19a) “Ashes of the Future” seems to have been the umbrella title for a projected series of short stories, of which “The Suicide of Sylvester Gray” was the first, the “Ashes” title being derived from FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat: “The Wordly Hope men set their Hearts upon / Turns Ashes &c” (v.14 of the 1st ed.). However, no other known published stories bore the “Ashes of the Future” tag, and only two of the projected stories seem actually to have been published, alongside the second edition of “The Suicide of Sylvester Gray”, in EHA’s collection of three short stories, Kisses of Fate (A Study of mere Human Nature) (1888.) My thanks are due to John Mahoney for supplying scans of “The Suicide of Sylvester Gray”, which is today a very rare work, and for some extensive background material on it which will be published as a Heron–Allen Society Opusculum in due course.

(19b) The real Sylvester Gray, Morland Stanhope Eyre, had rather a different fate in store. He was born in London in 1863, and, after following a successful career in the army, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, he died in Ryhall, near Stamford in Lincolnshire, in 1938, just short of his 75th birthday. Unlike Sylvester Gray, he did get married, though relatively late in life, to Janet Mary Pugh, in 1912. Again, my thanks are due to John Mahoney for supplying this information.

(19c) For EHA’s pen–names, see Notes upon the Literary, Scientific, and Artistic Activities of Edward Heron–Allen, F.R.S., Extracted from his Diaries and other Documents by Christopher Blayre Ph.D., D.Litt (= EHA himself!), Opusculum I of the Heron–Allen Society, 2002, p.5, 12, 16 & p.18 (n.28). Also “With the Plethora of Heron–Allen Pseudonyms, did the Persona of Flavian Heron–Allen really exist ?” by John P. Mahoney and Barbara P. Mahoney, in the Heron–Allen Society Newsletter no.20 (Spring 2012), p.5–7. EHA’s pseudonym / nickname Flavian came from the character of the same name in Walter Pater’s novel Marius the Epicurean, first published in 1885. Pater’s Flavian possessed “really great intellectual capacities” and was a “brilliant youth who loved dress, and dainty food, and flowers” (ch.4) – in other words, something of a genius with hedonistic tendencies. This description clearly resonated with some of EHA’s friends, and they dubbed him Flavian as a result, a nickname he clearly relished, as he used it as the pseudonym under which, in 1919, he published two stories in the journal The Anglo–French Review, these being re–cycled, two years later, under the different pseudonym of Christopher Blayre in The Purple Sapphire.

(20) The story is presented as a paper written by Prof. Magley, the successor to Prof. Barrowdale as Professor of Physiology, and inheritor of his documentation of his experiments, Barrowdale having died of septic pneumonia. Unfortunately, Prof Magley falls in love, marries, and impregnates Uniqua before he reads what Barrowdale has done. Given the potential for genetic disaster, Prof.Magley decides he must kill Uniqua, after which he then kills himself. Uniqua’s mother, meanwhile, has cut her own throat, so everybody ends up dead in this cheerful tale. There is some heterosexual soft porn as mutual lust overtakes Prof. Magley and Uniqua on their first meeting (p.220f), and some stilted dialogue – notably “I wanted you so frightfully the moment I saw you” (p.239) – but nothing startling, and the story is really just a piece of hack–fiction.

For a good account of The Cheetah–Girl and the Blayre stories generally, see also Doctor Christopher Blayre: Scientific and Literary Accomplishments, 1921–1934 by John P. Mahoney and Barbara P. Mahoney, in Opusculum XX of the Heron–Allen Society, 2014, p.4–18.

(21) See, for example, Douglas Murray, Bosie – a Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas (2000), p.126. Murray clearly bases this on the following rather sad passage in The Autobiography of Lord Alfred Douglas (1929): “But how could I know or guess that the very thing she loved in me was that which I was always trying to suppress and keep under: I mean the feminine part of me ? As soon as I was married I deliberately tried to be more and more manly. The more manly I became the less attractive I was to Olive. I can see now, looking back at it all, that she was always desperately trying to recapture the ‘me’ that she had guessed and seen and loved, and only occasionally finding it concealed under various cloaks.” (p.215–6)

(22) Barry acquired the volume from book–dealer Timothy d’Arch Smith in the 1980s, and the story of how Tim acquired it is of some anecdotal interest, as well as giving some curious information as regards its provenance. He found it in the front part of a shop in George Street, London W.1, an establishment that purported to be a bookshop, but actually only held about 500 books, all run–of–the–mill stuff apart from this one. At the back of the shop was the office of Dowager Lady Birdwood (1913–2000), the far–right political activist, holocaust–denier and public decency campaigner. Her organisation used the same letter–drop as Tim did at that time, 30 Baker Street, W.1., and her post was collected from there and taken back to George Street by “a sinister dwarfish hunchbacked cigar–chomping factotum.” Her Ladyship got a fair amount of post and cash donations which the cigar–smoker dealt with in his lair, and it was he, Tim told me, who took his money for Iraïs. How it got from EHA’s collection to the shop in George Street, though, remains an intriguing mystery.

(23) At the time of writing, WorldCat.org lists only the copies in the British Library and Cornell University. According to COPAC, the copy in the British Library is the only one in a UK Library. The copies at the University of Minnesota, and the Kinsey Institute in Indiana are not listed by WorldCat. The one in Cornell is particularly interesting, for its half-–title page bears the following inscription:

An edition of two copies was printed May 1912 with on page 104, line 3, ‘and her tongue touched me.’ This was altered at the request of Natalie Clifford Barney (Gabrielle) to ‘and her lips enfolded it.’ This is the only alteration that was made in the original MS.

But the handwriting here is not that of EHA (Fig.11b), though its wording is clearly based on that in the copy in the collection of Barry Humphries (Fig.11a). Unfortunately no–one knows who did write it. Paul Rassam, who sold the copy to Cornell, told me that he bought it from a bookseller, who in turn had bought it from another bookseller, but the book came without any associated material that might suggest provenance, and all of his attempts to trace one came to nothing. Note that in the above inscription it is assumed that Barney is Gabrielle.

The copies in both Minnesota and Indiana have been linked up to Jacqueline Maury via #2268 in Rolfe S. Reade’s Registrum Librorum Eroticorum (1936), as mentioned in the main body of this article. My thanks are due to Joan Navarre for alerting me to the existence of the Minnesota copy.

As regards provenance, such as is known: the British Library copy was accessioned on 31st August 1955, and was probably a donation, though there is no record of the donor; the Kinsey Institute copy was purchase from an unrecorded source on 30th July 1962; and the Minnesota University copy was purchased as recently as 2011, again from an unrecorded source.

(24) EHA and Iraïs are not mentioned either in two other detailed biographies, George Wickes, The Amazon of Letters: the Life and Loves of Natalie Barney (1977) and Diana Souhami, Wild Girls – Paris, Sappho and Art: the Lives and Loves of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks (2004.) Nor does EHA feature in Natalie Barney’s curious ‘Salon Map’, which she drew in about 1929 (Fig.16.) This was a schematic representation of the scene of her Friday salons at 20 rue Jacob, Paris. Into it she inserted the names of dozens of people who had been in attendance over the years. “The Amazon” was a nick–name given to her by her literary friend Remy de Gourmont, whose name appears prominently at the base of the temple steps in Fig.16. The map makes interesting reading, for in there, alongside Natalie’s various lovers and the likes of Pierre Louÿs, Isadora Duncan, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and other predictable names from the avant garde, are Mrs Pankhurst (just to the left of the bottom step of the temple) and Sir James & Lady Fraser (sic) (written upside down, emerging from the sortie to the lower left.)

(25a) From information supplied by Tim McCann: the references to EHA meeting Natalie Barney in 1907 come from EHA’s holiday Diary now in the West Sussex Record Office (Heron–Allen MS.1/2/1/14.)

(25b) Unfortunately, EHA’s holiday diary for 1914 at the WSRO (Heron–Allen MS.1/2/1/18) is currently missing. However, we know that he visited Barney in Paris in 1914, for in a letter to her dated 15 March 1930 (see note (25c) below) he recalls “a beautifully memorable afternoon” with her in that year, when he was in Paris doing some work at the Laboratoire de Paleontologie.

(25c) There are four known letters from EHA to Barney, these being dated 6th July 1914; 15th March 1930; 30th May 1930 and 9th December 1930. These are currently in the Bibliothèque Littéraire Jacques Doucet in Paris, and my thanks are due to John & Barbara Mahoney for supplying details of their contents. There appear to be no surviving letters from Barney to EHA, unfortunately, in any collection anywhere. [It may interest readers to know that Jacques Doucet made a fortune as a Paris couturier, and endowed his State Library on the proceeds. Perhaps not surprisingly, in his capacity as couturier, Liane de Pougy knew him, and in her posthumously published diary My Blue Notebooks (1979), p.169, she mentions this endowment. For more on de Pougy and My Blue Notebooks, see note 26b below.]

(25d) There are no letters from either Jacqueline Maury or Virginia Yardley to Natalie Barney recorded in the online catalogue of the Jacques Doucet Collection. However, according to Wickes (as in note 24, p.186), Barney religiously preserved her letters, some 40,000 of them, whereas the online catalogue of the Doucet Collection lists only a small fraction of that number.

(25e) The holiday diary covering the trips to Rome and Florence in 1923 is again housed the WSRO (Heron–Allen MS. 1/2/1/22.)

(26a) Her first book of poems was Quelques portraits–sonnets de femmes, published under her own name in Paris in 1900 (Rodriguez p.114–5.) It caused something of a stir which eventually reached the ears of her father (ib.p.122), his exasperation being made worse by the news that his wayward daughter was the thinly disguised subject of the lesbian novel published by one of her lovers, Liane de Pougy (ib.p.137: see note 26b below.) Consequently, Natalie’s next book, Cinq petits dialogues grecs (antithèses et parallèles), published in 1902, was issued under the pen–name of Tryphé (ib.p.137–8.) Her father died in 1902, and Natalie inherited a fortune (ib. p.149–150.) She was not to publish another book until 1910, in which year she published three, Éparpillements, Je me souviens and Actes et entr’actes, all in French, note, and all under her own name, her father being long–dead. (ib.p.202) In fact, of the twelve books that Barney was eventually to publish, only one was in English, one in French and English, and the rest in French (ib. p.203f.) As stated in the body of this article, Iraïs does not feature anywhere. A useful list of Barney’s works can be found on Rodriguez p.391.

(26b) Barney’s principal lesbian affairs prior to 1912, the publication date of Iraïs, were with Evalina Palmer (from 1893 – Rodriguez p.56f), Liane de Pougy (from 1899 – Rodriguez p.82f; Wickes p.37f; Souhami p.14f), Pauline Tarn (from 1900 – Rodriguez p.105f; Souhami p.36f)), Olive Custance (from 1901 – Rodriguez p.125; Wickes p.59; Souhami p.39f) and Elisabeth (Lily) de Gramont (from 1910 – Rodriguez p.196f; Souhami p.72f.) Her affair with Romaine Brooks probably began post 1912, “sometime around the start of the war” (Rodriguez p.223) or specifically in 1915 (Souhami p.137), and that with Dolly Wilde much later, in 1927 (Rodriguez p.279; Souhami p.150f.) Most of her relationships were on and off affairs – she was notoriously unfaithful – and there were many more than those listed here. But the principal ones listed above are the ones Natalie classed as her “liaisons”, as opposed to her ”demi–liaisons and adventures.” (Rodriguez p.298) In fact, Barney’s multiple relationships, often overlapping, are reflected in those of Carina in Iraïs: in addition to Diane, Carina sometimes lusts after Simonne (Iraïs, p.71) and she is more than a little smitten with Gabrielle (ib. p.82–3)., who introduced her to Iraïs Not only that, she has a crush on Mademoiselle Niedkovska, her music teacher. (ib p.90)

Eva Palmer (1874–1952) was born in New York and first met Barney in Maine, reuniting with her later in Paris. She had very long red hair, sea–green eyes, and a pale complexion (Rodriguez p.56; Wickes p.30). Subsequently, in 1907, she married the brother of Penelope Duncan, the wife of Isadora Duncan’s brother, thus becoming Mrs Eva Palmer–Sikelianos. Eva’s long red hair, plus the date (and the fact) of her marriage would presumably rule her out as Iraïs. Eva and her husband were instrumental in founding the Delphic Festivals (revivals of ancient Greek music, dance and drama) in the late 1920s.

Liane de Pougy (1869–1950) was born in La Flèche, France as Anne–Marie Chassaigne. She was raised in a convent, eloped at age 16 with a naval officer, whom she married, and by whom she had a child. The marriage was not a happy one, and after its break–up she migrated to Paris, abandoning her child, to become initially a dancer at the Folies, but later one of the most famous courtesans in Paris, taking the name de Pougy from one of her wealthy clients. [According to R.P. Rzewuski’s Preface to My Blue Notebooks (Mes Cahiers Bleus), her posthumously published diary, first published in French in 1977 and in an English translation by Diana Athill in 1979 (used here), Liane came from a name “which had been bestowed on her by the dissolute set in which she moved.”(p.13)] Despite her marriage and her career as a courtesan, she was bisexual and had numerous affairs with women. Her affair with Barney began in 1899, and she published her hugely popular roman à clef novel based on it, Idylle Saphique, in 1901. In 1910 she married the Romanian Prince Georges Ghika, thus becoming a princess, but that marriage too was not a great success. In 1926 he ran off with a young artist called Manon Thiébot (aka Marcelle), with whom Liane seems to be have been smitten as well (Notebooks, p.191f.) Georges eventually returned, but in the meantime Liane had consoled herself by having a lesbian affair with Mimy Franchetti, whose affections she stole from Natalie Barney (Notebooks p.203f). After her husband’s return, he and Liane stayed, somewhat uneasily, together until his death in 1945. Some years before her husband’s death, Liane ‘found God’ as we would now say. Her life completed a curious circle when, in 1945, she became Sister Anne–Marie (reverting to her real fore–names – Souhami p.26; Rzewuski p.16), or, under her distinctly appropriate religious name, Sister Mary Magdalene of the Penitence (Rodriguez p.297; Wickes p.37), a tertiary Dominican nun, in Switzerland, where she died in 1950. In Notebooks (p.49) she gave a description of herself as having a well–shaped mouth, green hazel eyes and chestnut brown hair. As for her voice, Natalie Barney described her as talking in a “languid way” (Souhami p.15.) All of this to some extent fits the description of Iraïs given in the novel. Another of the things about Liane which perhaps links her to Iraïs, is that though she was devoted to Barney, throughout her life as a courtesan she would happily disappear without notice to entertain a wealthy male client (Rodriguez p.96; Souhami p.21). In the novel, Carina’s affair with Iraïs ruptures when the latter is “called away from Paris on urgent business” (p.114.) Beyond this, though, there is nothing much to link Iraïs with Liane – certainly Liane makes no retrospective reference to either Jacqueline Maury or Iraïs in Notebooks (a diary which covers 1919 to 1941, but with some looking back.) On her literary output, see note (26c) below.

As for Pauline Tarn (pen-name Renée Vivien), she was one of the principal lovers of Barney from about 1900, and though she wrote poetry, she was British (she was born in London in 1877), and is said to have had light brown hair (according to Rodriguez p.105), or ash–blond hair, with chestnut–brown eyes “which became greenish in the sunlight” (Wickes p.54). More significantly, as mentioned in the main body of the article, Tarn was an alcoholic, a drug–user and an anorexic, who died in 1909 at the early age of 32, nothing as dramatic as which applies to any character in Iraïs.

Olive Custance (1874–1944) was born in London. At an early age she became involved in the Decadent movement, contributing poems to The Yellow Book between 1894 and 1897. She published four books of poetry between 1897 and 1911. As indicated in the main body of this article, she married Lord Alfred Douglas in 1902. The marriage was stormy, and they began to live apart from 1913, though they never divorced. She is a very unlikely candidate for Iraïs.

Elizabeth (Lily) de Gramont (1875–1954) was born into an aristocratic family in Nancy, France. In 1896 she became, by marriage, the Duchesse de Clermont–Tonnere, and had two children. She had blue eyes and a clear complexion, and was thought beautiful, but she was short–sighted and used a lorgnette (Souhami p.72), of which there is no mention in the novel. Also she did not meet and begin her lesbian affair with Barney until 1910, which is a little late for her to feature in Iraïs.

If Jacqueline Maury was the Jacqueline Buchanan born in 1891, we can tie down the events of the novel to the period 1907 to 1909, during which Carina was between 16 and 18 years old, the time range which she gives on p.9 of the novel. Of course, it is entirely possible that Iraïs was one of Barney’s numerous lesser lovers, and not one of the foregoing at all. Be that as it may, she remains unidentified with any certainty at present.

(26c) The novel being so rare and inaccessible to most people, part of p.100–1 is perhaps worth quoting at this point, as a possible clue to the identity of Iraïs:

I heard a woman once jeer at Iraïs and her “pose,” which made me so angry that I wanted to go and tell the woman she was wrong, and that she said horrid things about Iraïs because she was jealous. I contented myself, however, with saying that I liked Iraïs very much, she was so good, so sincere, and so beautiful. My eulogy evidently amused them; they shrieked with laughter, and now they always call me “L’Enfant.” Iraïs writes books, and I also heard some one say she was conceited, and wrote more rubbish than any other woman in the room. That was a woman who once wrote an Eastern book, and has been threatening to write another one ever since. They say she dare not carry out her threat – or can’t, because she would have to write this one herself. Everybody in Paris seems to do something, but I have come across more poets than anything else, and there is always a new one turning up with a book of verses under his arm.

Interesting as this is, the contexts of the various comments are too vague to draw any real conclusions, as so many of Natalie Barney’s circle ‘wrote books’. It is worth pointing out, however, that though Liane de Pougy is most famous for her novel Idylle Saphique (1901), she also, earlier, wrote the “roman vecu”, L’Insaisissable (1898), her first published novel of which even she didn’t think much later in life (Notebooks p.128) and her “roman parisien”, La Mauvaise Part: Myrrhille (1899). Later came her “roman à clef” Les Sensations de Mlle de la Bringue (1904) and her “roman d’Yvée”, Yvée Lester (1906). All this could certainly fit with the above–quoted passage from Iraïs, even if no firm conclusions can be drawn.

(27a) The 1914 voyage was aboard the SS St Louis departing from Southampton for New York on February 7th 1914. Her last permanent address is listed as Paris. EHA’s address is given (abbreviated) in the “nearest relative or friend” (in country of departure) column as 33 Hamilton Terrace, London NW. Her occupation is given as “none.”

The 1921 voyage was aboard the SS Cedric departing from Liverpool for New York on 30th March 1921. Her last permanent address is listed as London. EHA’s address in the “nearest relative or friend” (in country of departure) column is the same as in 1914. Her occupation is given as “nil.”

(27b) The 1915 voyage was aboard the SS St Louis, from New York to Liverpool arriving on Aug 15th. There is no “address of nearest relative or friend” column, but beneath Jacqueline’s name is “c/o American Express Co., London.” The occupation for both Jacqueline and Virginia is given as “none.”

(27c) The 1929 voyage was aboard the SS Empress of Canada departing from Cherbourg for New York on 19th September 1929. Her last permanent address is given as London, England, the name and address of her closest relative or friend there being given as Miss Yardley, 68 Church Street, Chelsea. Her occupation is again given as “none.”

(28) A particularly interesting example is furnished by the Belgian born poet and writer Pierre Louÿs (1870–1925.) Himself homosexual, he was a friend of Oscar Wilde (who dedicated the French edition of Salomé to him) as well as being one of Natalie Barney’s circle (Rodriguez p.131f.) In 1894 he published Les Chansons de Bilitis (The Songs of Bilitis), in which he claimed to have translated a collection of lesbian (though arguably bisexual) poems, written in the style of Sappho, by a courtesan called Bilitis, on the walls of whose tomb in Cyprus they were discovered. Louÿs prefaced his ‘translations’ with a life of Bilitis – she had actually known Sappho, he assures us – and details of the discovery of the tomb by Herr G. Heim. The songs were actually fabrications by Louÿs himself, some being re–workings of material in the Greek Anthology, others being based on the surviving fragments of Sappho’s poems, others being just made up, and very skilfully so.

Under the title The Songs of Bilitis, an English translation by Alvah C. Bessie was published, in a limited edition of 2000 copies, by Macy–Masius of New York in 1926. Privately printed for subscribers only, it was profusely illustrated by Rubaiyat–artist Willy Pogany. At least two reprints of it have been issued by Dover Publications, starting in 1988.

Again, we should mention the rather different, but related, comic / satirical novel Extraordinary Women by Compton Mackenzie, published in 1928. This detailed the fallings in and out of love of a group of lesbians living on the island of Sirene (= Capri) during the First World War. One of the characters is based on Romaine Brooks, a long–term lover of Natalie Barney’s (Rodriguez, p.225.)

Another interesting example of this genre is Chrysilla von Dansdorf’s Heart’s Desire (1939), a tale of a group of lesbians living on an island near Lesbos. The story was actually written by Christopher Sandford, of the Golden Cockerel Press, but was represented as being based on a Greek original, discovered by a mysterious German doctor, and translated for him by Chrysilla von Dansdorf (Dansdorf is an anagram of Sandford.) The book, illustrated by John Buckland Wright, 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. The story, though, unlike The Songs of Bilitis, was clearly one written – and illustrated – for the titillation of heterosexual men.

(29a) The “ill–fatedness” is rather contrived: des Grieux accidentally catches his own mother having sex with Teleny; Teleny commits suicide as a result; and the story of the mother of des Grieux is left to be told at some future date. As is revealed in chapter 1, the sub–title of the Smithers edition, “The Reverse of the Medal,” is a disappointingly crude homosexual reference to the male back–side.

(29b) See H. Montgomery Hyde, Oscar Wilde – a Biography (Penguin Classic Biography ed., 2001), p.185–6; James G. Nelson, Publisher to the Decadents – Leonard Smithers in the Careers of Beardsley, Wilde, Dowson (2000), p.34–6 & p.319–320; and Brian Reade, Sexual Heretics (1970), p.49–50. Another fascinating, if more inaccessible, source is A Study of Erotic Literature in England considered with Especial Reference to Social Life, by Charles Reginald Dawes (Cheltenham, 1943), the bound typescript of an unpublished book housed in the British Library (Shelf–mark Cup.364.d.15), p.248–260. Dawes knew Hirsch, and wrote: “M. Hirsch told me himself that, in his opinion, the book was undoubtedly written by various friends of Wilde, who supervised and corrected the manuscript, adding touches of his own here and there.” (p.259) This book – or rather, a copy of it – must be the unnamed work to which Reade refers in his Sexual Heretics p.50 (footnote 59.)

(29c) Rupert Hart–Davis, The Letters of Oscar Wilde (1962): for “widely scattered”, see Introduction p.ix; for “The Happy Prince” letter see p.221; for the “Strictly Private” letter see p.629. In Hart–Davis’s subsequent volume, More Letters of Oscar Wilde (1985), the earliest letter to Smithers dates from October 1897 (p.157), so again nothing has come to light regarding Wilde’s supposed involvement in Smithers’ publication of Teleny in 1893.

(29d) A notable example of this is the so–called Burmese Masque, For the Love of the King, supposedly written by Wilde in 1894 for a Mrs Chan Toon. Before her marriage to a nephew of the King of Burma in 1893, she had previously been plain Miss Mary Mabel Cosgrove. She claimed to have grown up with Wilde and his brother in Ireland, and to have known Wilde’s parents. The royal marriage, though, didn’t last, as seems to be indicated by her somewhat bitter novel, A Marriage in Burmah (1905). Subsequently, in 1911, she became Mrs Wodehouse Pearse, and though her new husband died in the war in 1918, she continued to use the name of Mrs Chan Toon to peddle her books.

But to get back to For the Love of the King, the play was, she said, written for her as a personal gift from Oscar, and she claimed to have a letter from him to prove it. The play was accepted as genuine, and published under Wilde’s name by Methuen & Co., in 1922. But it later transpired that Mrs Chan Toon was less than honest. For a start, she was actually some eighteen years younger than Oscar, which made her tale of growing up with him and knowing his father (who had died when she was only four years old) all rather unlikely. Not only that, but she had apparently met her second husband in Mexico in 1907, where the two of them were imprisoned for blackmail. By 1924 she was apparently posing as a Russian Princess in Scotland, and in 1926 she was sent to prison for the theft of a considerable sum of money from under her landlady’s mattress. It was Christopher Millard who first exposed For the Love of the King, and its associated letter from Oscar, as a fraud. Unfortunately his exposure was not very carefully worded, and it could be taken as implying that Methuen & Co were in on the fraud, which they weren’t. Consequently they sued Millard for libel, and won the case, which had the unfortunate consequence of leaving the issue of the genuineness of the play itself ‘in limbo’. (At the time of the trial, by the way, Mrs Chan Toon was serving time for the above–mentioned theft from her landlady, but as the Judge pointed out, strictly speaking, that couldn’t be held against her in this case.) The play is still today reprinted as “by Oscar Wilde.” See H. Montgomery Hyde, Christopher Sclater Millard (Stuart Mason) – Bibliographer & Antiquarian Book Dealer (1990), p.89ff. The trial was reported in some detail in the legal columns of The Times on 10th, 11th & 12th November 1926, the first of these reports containing the wonderful description of Mrs Chan Toon, given at the trial by an employee of Methuen & Co., as “an eccentric looking person with a parrot on her shoulder.” Details of Mrs Chan Toon’s two marriages are taken from online records; the imprisonment in Mexico was reported in The New York Times on 8th June 1908.

Another, much less spectacular, example (initially brought to my attention by Merlin Holland) was A.H. Cooper–Prichard’s Conversations with Oscar Wilde, published in 1931. The author was born plain Arthur Henry Prichard in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1874, and died in Switzerland in 1954. I never did find where the Cooper with its hyphen came from, and this, like the title of ‘Professor’ which he used when he published “Reminiscences of Oscar Wilde” in The Cornhill Magazine in August 1930, seems to have been pure affectation. (“Reminiscences” was the precursor of “Conversations.”) It is possible that in about 1888–1890 AHP did meet Wilde at the house in Kensington where his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Helen Bateman, lived with three of AHP’s unmarried aunts, but that is about as far as it goes, and the ‘conversations’ are certainly 99% fantasy, if not more. (Indeed, the author seems to admit as much in his Preface, in somewhat obscure terms, though his admission can also be seen as pre–empting threats of such “blackmailers” and “scavengers” who might seek to claim libel!) Prichard may have been inspired by Laurence Housman’s Echo de Paris (1923); possibly by the ‘interview’ with Oscar, anonymously published in the St James Gazette on 18 January 1895, which interview may well have been written partially by Wilde himself, in conjunction with Robert Ross.

(30a) See Hart–Davis, Letters, p.167 (9 January 1885), p.177 (postmark 12 June 1885 – the horoscope letter) and p.209 (postmark 17 October 1887.) No further letters are recorded in Hart–Davis, More Letters.

(30b) See H. Montgomery Hyde, Oscar Wilde – a Biography (Penguin Classic Biography ed., 2001), p.104; and Timothy McCann’s article “Edward Heron–Allen and Constance Wilde: a Horoscope and Two Palm Readings” in The Wildean (issue 47, July 2015, p.56–64.)

(31) Certainly, stylistically, in comparison with the Hotel Window story, I can see nothing to suggest EHA’s involvement in Teleny. True, in chapter 3, des Grieux, at that stage in denial of his sexuality, goes along with a group of college friends to a brothel, and observes two prostitutes in an exhibition of clitoris to clitoris sex, perhaps prefiguring EHA’s comment about having often seen exhibitions of “true Tribadism”; in chapter 6 there are some graphic scenes of homosexual sex which are as explicit as the Hotel Window story; and in chapter 7, des Grieux observes a homosexual orgy at a party from “a kind of balcony”, which perhaps prefigures the events of the Hotel Window story being observed from a balcony, though the contexts are very different. But really, none of these things conclusively links EHA with authorship of any part of the text.


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