An anthology of literary texts and contexts

This book is an anthology of selections from works dealing with same-sex love, desire, sexual acts, and relationships during the period 1550-1735 in early modern England. It presents religious and moral writings, pseudo-medical writings, criminal pamphlets, travel writings, and letters on same-sex desire. The condemnation of male and female same-sex sexual acts is embedded in the earliest Christian theology. The early modern medical, pseudo-medical, and anatomical texts in Latin are surprisingly reticent about the physiological and anatomical aspects of homoerotic sexuality and desire. Canon law had long condemned male same-sex sexual acts. The 1533-34 statute in England forbade male same-sex sexual acts but ignored female same-sex intercourse. English travel narratives dealing with the sexual customs of other cultures often present sexual licentiousness as endemic, sometimes touching specifically on sodomy and tribadism. The most detailed presentations of same-sex erotic relationships in non-European cultures are those relating to Turkey and the Turkish seraglio. Familiar letters, such as between James I and VI, could reveal personal secrets and be radically transgressive in their emphasis on fostering love and desire. The book discusses homo-sexual subculture during 1700-1730, translation of Latin and Greek texts, and numerous literature representing male and female same-sex erotic relationships. The largely 'socially diffused homosexuality' of the seventeenth century changed profoundly with 'clothes, gestures, language' connoting 'homosexuality'. The book shows how literary genres of male same-sex and female-sex desires such as Shakespeare's Sonnets, and Catherine Trotter's Agnes de Castro allow the modern reader to chart changes in their representation.

Marie Helena Loughlin

Alan Bray has shown that early modern English society's homosocial discourses and institutions underpinned and managed the formation of passionately committed same-sex relationships. For the modern reader, sodomy and tribadism have as often occluded the nature of same-sex homoerotic love, desire, sexual acts, and relationships as they have illuminated them. There has been a move, in short, to contextualize rather than privilege the discourses of sodomy and tribadism in analyses of 'homosexuality' and 'lesbianism' in early modern England. One of the most vexed issues in the history of 'homosexuality' and 'lesbianism' has been the relationship between the early modern discourses of sodomy and tribadism and notions of early modern sexual identity. Interestingly, as critics have widened the contexts within which they analyse male and female homoerotic relationships, they have also returned to the whole issue of sexual identity in the early modern period.

in Same-Sex Desire in Early Modern England, 1550–1735
Marie Helena Loughlin

The condemnation of male and female same-sex sexual acts is embedded in the earliest Christian theology regarding sexuality, heterosexual marriage, and reproduction: human genitalia were created for reproduction, mirroring the creative act of God. Same-sex intercourse, especially in its particular characterization as sodomy, was in a different category of sin from forbidden heterosexual acts. In terms of Scriptural prohibitions, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was by far the most frequently discussed biblical condemnation of same-sex intercourse, and male same-sex anal congress was the most frequently alluded to same-sex act. Forbidden heterosexual acts within and outside of marriage were less serious: they were violations of God's will, but not also violations of nature. Attempting to undermine the spiritual and political authority of the Roman Catholic Church, English Protestant reformists often seized on sodomy as a highly charged and emotive anti-papal discourse, with female homoerotic sexual acts sometimes appearing as well.

in Same-Sex Desire in Early Modern England, 1550–1735
Marie Helena Loughlin

Giles Jacob's writings range from legal textbooks and reference works to dramatic farces, satires, and verse. This chapter discusses Jacob's pseudo-clinical discussion of hermaphroditism and his tale of margureta and Barbarissa. Both Jacob's Tractatus de Hermaphroditis and Supplement to the Onania focus partly on the role of clitoral hypertrophy in tribadic activity and hermaphroditic anatomy, but both are also concerned with the relationships between same-sex erotic partners. Tractatus suggests that a hermaphroditic woman's hypertrophied clitoris produces her sexual desire for members of her own sex, and allows her to satisfy it; her anatomy, then, makes her a tribade. Supplement suggests hat biology (an enlarged clitoris) precedes and creates same-sex desire. Voyeuristic eroticism is most obvious in Jacob's text, although it is not entirely absent from the Supplement even given that author's strenuous and largely convincing claims that the work has a serious moral and social purpose.

in Same-Sex Desire in Early Modern England, 1550–1735
Marie Helena Loughlin

Canon law had long condemned male same-sex sexual acts, at least from the late fourth century, but the later Church courts were inconsistent in their treatment of offenders. In England, same-sex sexual acts between men (called 'sodomy' and 'buggery' in English legal discourses) began to be regulated and punished by the state only with the 1533-34 statute against buggery. As the Castlehaven trial suggests, legal prosecution and execution for sodomy could occur without proving anal penetration and emission. There are two indictments against Mervin Lord Audley, the first for rape, the second for sodomy; the prisoner is honourable, the crimes dishonourable of which he is indicted. Humphrey Stafford focuses on defining Stafford as a good gentleman who sinned, making him much less a monstrous stereotype of vice than is the case either with John Atherton or with Renaissance crime pamphlets convicted murderers.

in Same-Sex Desire in Early Modern England, 1550–1735
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Marie Helena Loughlin

English travel narratives that deal with the sexual customs of other cultures, particularly those of the New World and the East, often present sexual licentiousness as endemic, sometimes touching on sodomy and tribadism. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier's extensive travels included journeys to England, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Persia, and Palestine. By presenting Islamic culture as condemning tribadism, Leo Africanus suggests the moral and ethical equivalency between Islamic Fez and Christian Europe. But the picture Africanus presents could not have avoided feeding his European readers' assumption that Islam and East were sites of 'aberrant' sexuality. Nicolas de Nicolay presents tribadism as endemic to Turkish culture, perversely encouraged by the Turkish husband's stereotypical jealous possessiveness and his wielding of tyrannical domestic power. Falling ill-fatedly in love with a Venetian count, Francesco Algarotti, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu left for the Continent in 1739, spending time in Avignon, Brescia, Venice and Padua, died finally of breast cancer.

in Same-Sex Desire in Early Modern England, 1550–1735
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Marie Helena Loughlin

An ubiquitous early modern genre, the letter was something that most literate people would have produced, its popularity prompting the publication of a number of letter-writing manuals in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Constance Fowler wrote eight letters to Herbert Aston, while he accompanied their father, Sir Walter Aston, on a Spanish diplomatic embassy. According to David Bergeron, the James I and VI - George Villiers, First Duke of Buckingham correspondence constitutes a record of the longest, most loving, and most mutual of James's relationships with his favourites. Buckingham's talents and commitment to James's service were demonstrated in his reorganization and revitalization of the navy. Twentieth-century critics have generally viewed Mary Stuart's eighty letters to Frances Apsley as grotesquely inflated expressions of devotion; excused them as reflecting the passionate language of 'a romantic young lady to a girl friend'.

in Same-Sex Desire in Early Modern England, 1550–1735
Marie Helena Loughlin

The Societies for the Reformation of Manners' first victim in their systematic entrapment of 'homosexuals', Edward Rigby was earlier acquitted of sodomy by a naval court. Plain Reasons, Hell upon Earth, John Dunton's 'He-Strumpets', and Ward's London Clubs are all invested in a conservative gender and class hierarchy. Like their sixteenth-century predecessors John Bale, Thomas Beard and William Prynne, the writers engage in virulent xeno-homophobia, painting 'homosexuality' as a foreign vice bent on the destruction of the English nation. Edward (Ned) Ward's description, in fact, complicates our perception that the new 'homosexual' is characterized largely at the turn of the century by an increasingly strong link between sodomy and effeminacy. Trial transcripts and published polemics describing and condemning the new 'homosexual' subculture have proved highly controversial sources, particularly when they have been used to date the shift from Renaissance to modern models of 'homosexual' identity.

in Same-Sex Desire in Early Modern England, 1550–1735
Marie Helena Loughlin

Author of the first English translation of Lucian's 'Courtesans', Thomas Brown was a prolific professional writer and a first-class linguist and classicist. Virgil Eclogues, Georgics, and the Aeneid are all founding texts in the Western literary tradition. George Turbervile's translation of Ovid's 'Sappho to Phaon' was the first and last in the sixteenth-century period to be so explicit about the primary and erotic nature of Sappho's same-sex relationships. Often called 'the Roman Homer', Virgil was one of the first pagan poets to be reinterpreted for Christian audiences and sensibilities. George Chapman's complete translation of the Iliad was published in 1611, and was followed three years later by a translation of the Odyssey. Sir Philip Sidney's works include the sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella; his influential defence of imaginative writing Apology for Poetry; translations of Psalms; and his never-out-of-print prose romance Arcadia.

in Same-Sex Desire in Early Modern England, 1550–1735
Marie Helena Loughlin

Committed royalist and early proponent of the Royal Society, Abraham Cowley wrote a tract in support of the advancement of science, lyric verse, and translations from the classics. At Cambridge Richard Crashaw became fluent in several ancient and modern languages, and began writing verse, publishing a volume of Latin sacred poetry in 1634. Apart from writing the most famous plays in English literature, William Shakespeare produced the narrative poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, as well as Sonnets. Like all Charles Goodall's homoerotic lyrics in Poetical Recreations that were reprinted in Poems and Translations, 'Idyll 23' is recast in heteroerotic terms, transforming the poem's scornful young man into a merciless young woman. Founder of the gossip-mongering periodical Female Tattler, Thomas Baker had varying success with his plays: the popular The Humour of the Age led to the acting company's prosecution for public immorality.

in Same-Sex Desire in Early Modern England, 1550–1735