This book carefully considers the myriad and complex relationships between queer male masculinity and interior design, material culture and aesthetics in Britain between 1885 and 1957 - that is bachelors of a different sort - through rich, well-chosen case studies. It pays close attention to particular homes and domestic interiors of Lord Ronald Gower, Alfred Taylor, Oscar Wilde, Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts, Edward Perry Warren and John Marshall, Sir Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, Noel Coward and Cecil Beaton. The book underscores the discursive history and conceptual parameters of the bachelor as these collided with queer sexualities through social and cultural perceptions. It focuses on the seven deadly sins of the modern bachelor: queerness, idolatry, decadence, askesis, decoration, glamour, and finally, artifice. The seven deadly sins of the modern bachelor comprise a contested site freighted with contradiction, vacillating between and revealing the fraught and distinctly queer twining of shame and resistance. Together the furniture and collections that filled Gower's Windsor home compel us to search out the narratives that bric-a-brac at once enliven and expose well beyond the shadows of the endless and meaningless accumulation that late Victorians were said to been have afflicted by.
Charles Ricketts, Charles Shannon and the Wilde factor
movement’s most astute acolytes.
3.3 George Charles Beresford. CharlesRicketts and Charles Shannon at Yeoman’s Row, Brompton Road, London , October 1903.
The impact of Ricketts and Shannon’s numerous homes together is made tangible in both the contemporary and posthumous accounts of the theorists, painters, critics and poets whose lives were touched by these two formidable aesthetes. 4 In the case of Ricketts and Shannon collecting as a vital extension of the rituals and performances of subjectivity was not an isolated thread or separated from the auratic
and L. Federle
Orr, The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860–1990 (London:
Victoria and Albert Museum, 2011); F. D. King, ‘The Book Beautiful:
Aestheticism, Materiality and Queer Books’ (PhD thesis, University of
Western Ontario, 2014). On the front cover design of Dorian Gray by
CharlesRicketts, see S. Calloway, CharlesRicketts (London: Thames and
Hudson, 1979); J. Darracott, The World of CharlesRicketts (New York and
Toronto: Methuen, 1980). Ricketts himself also wrote about his designs
for Wilde: J. P. Raymond and C. Ricketts, Recollections of Oscar
at his own request in April 1829, but the ink had barely dried on
the survey map when the Bengal Presidency Paymaster died in Calcutta
on 17 November 1831. Maling’s son Lieutenant CharlesRicketts
Maling was later to become interpreter and quartermaster of the 28th
Bengal Native Infantry. Just three months after his baby son died in
March 1845, Charles himself succumbed at the age of just
Ancient Egypt in the aesthetic and decadent imaginary
undergraduate, with the earliest version completed in 1877–78; it was, however, a piece on which he continued to work. A second version, expanded in length, dates to Wilde's April 1883 stay in Paris, but a return two months later to ‘the splendid whirl and swirl of life in London’ curtailed his endeavours.
Eventually, nearly a decade later, Wilde signed a contract with John Lane of Bodley Head in 1892 to publish the poem with illustrations and decorations provided by CharlesRicketts, and The Sphinx eventually appeared
of their queer masculinity.
All the bachelors whose aesthetic lives comprise this book were middle- and upper-class men of the creative arts, whether as writers, collectors, playwrights, actors, designers, antiquarians, sculptors, painters, photographers and/or illustrators. In each and every case, the domestic realm and interior design, that is, the material conditions and products of these men’s creativity, have largely been ignored in traditional surveys of their work, with the notable exception of Charles Shannon and CharlesRicketts (the subjects of Chapter
Cedric Morris, Arthur Lett-Haines and the decorative ideal
lifelong study and passion, floriculture. On one of his frequent visits to London in November 1918 Morris attended celebrations of the Armistice hosted by Arthur LettHaines (known to all as Lett) (1894–1978) at his house at 2 Carlyle Square, Chelsea; a meeting that would forever change the course of his life. Not unlike CharlesRicketts and Charles Shannon, in many ways the two were opposites: ‘Cedric was quiet, intuitive, impractical in administrative matters, and absolutely single-minded in the practice of painting and in his involvement with the world of plants
purchased a number of Greek tanagras. Given their popularity at the time, these small Greek figurines were being heavily copied: the copies were passed off as originals, making victims out of the most adept collectors; even connoisseurs like CharlesRicketts fell victim to the forgeries trade early on in his career.
4.2 Edward (Ned) Perry Warren, John Marshall and St. Bernard, c. 1890s.
In 25 April 1890 Warren received the assignment of the lease for Lewes House, a foreboding and large building, which an extant plan of the estate reveals occupied the grounds
Lord Gower, idolatry and the cult of the bric-à-brac diva
Street. Not unlike but to a lesser extent than with CharlesRicketts and Charles Shannon (the subjects of the following chapter), for Gower, Wilde played a shadowy figure who lurked in the nebulous interstitial crevices between aesthetics, class and sexuality where he often found himself, not without problem. In Who Was that Man? A Present for Mr. Oscar Wilde Neil Bartlett importantly deduces that ‘each of Wilde’s characters is a collector, a connoisseur. They love to do nothing more than to recite the list of their treasures, to sort and catalogue them’. 7 In