Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

7 posts categorized "LGBTQ+"

15 February 2022

Leendert Hasenbosch’s diary: the story of a gay soldier marooned on a desert island

Leendert Hasenbosch, a Dutch East India Company soldier, was marooned on Ascension Island as punishment for sodomy in 1725.  Abandoned on an uninhabited island, he kept a diary of his days as a castaway and his struggle for survival.

Views of Ascension Island circa 1596

Views of Ascension Island circa 1596 Wikimedia Commons

This diary was later recovered and published as Sodomy Punish’d: Being a True and Exact Relation of what befell to one Leondert Hussenlosch (London, 1726), surviving in a single copy in the British Library.  It is a rare first-hand account of the lived-experience and hardships of a gay man at a time when sexual relationships between men were punishable by death.

Title page of  Sodomy Punish'dSodomy Punish’d, London: 1726, British Library RB.23.a.6682

Leendert Hasenbosch spent his first month on the island searching for water and praying for rescue.  Lonely, he wrote in his diary and tried to keep a bird as a pet but it died.

May 5: '…They put on shore with me a cask of water, two buckets an old frying pan &c.  I made a tent on the beech'.
May 8: '…I trust God Almighty will deliver me by some ship that may touch here'.
May 11: 'I sat down very discontented, being almost dead with thirst'.
May 12: 'This afternoon put some onions, pease and calavances into the ground near my tent to try if they would grow'.

In June, Hasenbosch experienced hallucinations and his situation got increasingly desperate.  He linked these visions to his guilty conscience and prayed for 'forgiveness for [his] sins'.  He was haunted by 'devilish spirits', including one with 'the resemblance of a man [he] had been well acquainted with, whose name [he is] afraid to mention; he staid with [him] for some time'.

By August, Hasenbosch’s water supply had dried up and he was beginning to starve.  He’d failed to catch any of the goats on the island and rats had eaten his crops.  His entries became shorter and preoccupied:
August 8 to 10: 'Nothing particular. No rain'.
August 12 to 16: 'Still no rain'.
August 17: 'No rain falling. I am in the most deplorable condition…'

He resorted to desperate measures:
August 22: 'This morning I caught a large turtle, and drank near a quart of her blood, and took some eggs and fat…I drank my own urine'.

Hasenbosch survived for just over another month on eggs, turtle meat, blood and urine:
October 7: 'I was again oblig’d to drink my own urine; I likewise eat raw flesh'.
From October 9 to 14: 'I liv’d as before'.

His published diary ends here.

Entry from the journal of the East India Company ship Compton describing the discovery of Hasenbosch’s campEntry for 20 January 1725/26 from the journal of the East India Company ship Compton – British Library IOR/L/MAR/B/666A

In January 1726, the East India Company ship Compton discovered Hasenbosch’s camp – a tent, bedding, and items including a kettle and tea, pipes, a hatchet and nails, and his diary up to November.  The Compton’s men searched in vain for the man or his body.  They did not believe that he had left the island because ‘his Paper and a great many Necessarys’ had been left in the tent.

Tragically, there are two fresh water sources on Ascension Island but Hasenbosch didn’t find either.  His diary was brought back in the Compton to England where it was published.  Other editions followed, some more homophobic than others.  His identity was only determined centuries later.

As the sailors didn’t find a skeleton in Leendert Hasenbosch’s camp, there is a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, he was rescued by a passing ship and survived.

Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
Read Leendert Hasenbosch’s diary in full
Journal of the East India Company ship Compton – British Library IOR/L/MAR/B/666A

 

08 February 2022

LGBTQ Histories in the Archives

As LGBT+ History month gets underway this February, here at the British Library we have published our LGBTQ+ Histories collection guide.  This guide highlights some amazing archives and manuscripts within the Modern Archives collections that relate to LGBTQ+ histories in the UK.  Exploring collections through the 17th to 21st centuries, it encompasses records relating to the persecution of LGBTQ+ individuals, archives from theorists of sexuality and gender, archives relating to LGBTQ+ activism, as well as creative works that explore LGBTQ+ themes.  The guide outlines some of the difficulties and complexities that arise in both identifying and researching such collections, but it also offers insight into the significant research possibilities these collections offer to readers.  These collections shine a light on histories of oppression, of hidden love, of divergent interpretations of Queer sexualities and genders, and offer first-hand accounts of LGBTQ+ lives through the ages.  This blog highlights just a few of the collections noted in the LGBTQ+ Histories guide.

17th Century collection items that reference same-sex relations are predominately available as records of prosecution, such as the confession and punishment of Bishop John Atherton (1598-1640) recorded in Sloane manuscripts.

Confession and punishment of Bishop John Atherton recorded in Sloane manuscripts.Sloane MS 1818, f.177. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Allusions to same-sex relations also appear in manuscript-circulated poetry of the 17th century.  Manuscript production offered more opportunities to make such references as their content would not have to pass through the Stationers' Company for approval to publish and reproduce.  Poets such as John Donne could circulate their poetry away from the eyes of the censor and might have been emboldened to make reference to same-sex relations more directly.  In ‘Sapho to Philanis’, Donne explores the Sappho’s yearning for her lesbian love interest, Philaenis.

Manuscript of 'Sapho to Philanis’Egerton MS 3884, f.86.v. © British Library Board.

Many of the 17th century manuscripts explore LGBTQ+ lives from the outside through articles of persecution or satirical works.  However, as we travel through the centuries one can find items of personal correspondence or creativity that offer personal experiences of LGBTQ+ lives.  One example is the correspondence between Lord Hervey, 2nd Baron Hervey, and Stephen Fox-Strangways, 1st Earl of Ilchester.  These affectionate letters capture some of the emotion that infused their decade long relationship.

Letter from Lord Hervey to Stephen Fox  15 October 1737Add MS 51345, f.80. Letter from Lord Hervey to Stephen Fox, 15 October 1737 - ‘ I have loved you ever since I knew you, which is now many years, so much better than most people are capable of loving anything…’ Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The papers of The Chevalier D’Eon shed light on the life of one of the most fascinating figures of the 18th century.  The Chevalier assumed different genders at different periods of their life.  Their life as a spy, diplomat, author, collector and soldier is recounted through letters, journals, papers and ephemera.  D’Eon would later provide inspiration for theorist Havelock Ellis who explored sexuality and gender in the late 19th to early 20th centuries.  The British Library holds the papers of Ellis and these are a rich resource for those exploring the emergence of categories of sexual and gender orientation.

Mademoiselle de Beaumont or the Chevalier D’Eon dressed in a costume which is female on the left and male on the rightMademoiselle de Beaumont or the Chevalier D’Eon, portrait from London Magazine, September 1777, Add MS 11340. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

These are just a few of the many diverse and fascinating collections mentioned in the guide.  We hope that readers will reach further into these collections and discover more themselves, so that they may bring to life more of these hidden histories.

Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading:
Collection Guide: LGBTQ+ histories: archives and manuscripts: 1600 to present 
BL LGBTQ Histories

30 June 2020

Remembering the Vere Street Coterie: a story of gay community, a police raid and library censorship

During Pride Month especially, it is vital that we remember the injustices and hardships faced by the British gay community over the centuries.  On 8 July 1810, the lives of a group of gay men in London were turned upside down.

The Bow Street Runners, an early version of the police force, launched a surprise raid on the White Swan in Vere Street, a molly house.  Many were arrested, six were convicted of sodomy and two others were later hanged.  This has become known as one of, if not the most, brutal public punishments of gay men in British history.

In 1813 a lawyer called Robert Holloway tells the story, somewhat disapprovingly, in a book called The Phoenix of Sodom, or the Vere Street Coterie. The British Library has two copies of this book, and both were secreted away in the Private Case, a collection of forbidden books, as soon as they arrived.  

The Phoenix of SodomThe Phoenix of Sodom, or, The Vere Street Coterie. Sold by J. Cook, at and to be had of all the booksellers, 1813.  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Homosexual activity was illegal and heavily prosecuted during the 19th century.  Gay men were treated with derision and disgust, and their punishment often involved public humiliation.  Molly houses were meeting places for gay men.  They were taverns, public houses, coffee houses and brothels where men could meet, socialise and find sexual partners.  Gay couples could even get married.  Even though same-sex marriage was not legalised in the United Kingdom until 2014, unofficial ceremonies were conducted at the White Swan by a minister called John Church, arguably the first openly gay ordained Christian minister in England.  Needless to say, visiting these places was risky.

On 8 July 1810, amidst the chaos and panic, the Bow Street Runners arrested many men at the White Swan.  Six were charged with sodomy: William Amos, whose alias was Sally Fox, Philip Kett, William Thomson, Richard Francis, James Done and Robert Aspinall.  They were sentenced to an hour in the pillory and some were also sentenced to imprisonment.

On 27 September, the streets surrounding the Old Bailey were crammed with angry, self-righteous and moralistic people waiting with bated breath for the prisoners to appear.  The mob was armed with mud, the corpses of cats and dogs, rotten fish, spoiled eggs, dung and whatever else they could get their hands on.  Soon the men were bleeding and beaten insensible.

But the authorities didn’t stop there.  Two men who had visited the White Chapel in the past were betrayed by an informer and were sentenced to death.  They were Thomas White, a 16-year-old drummer of the Guards and John Newbolt Hepburn, a 42-year-old ensign in a West India regiment.  They were hanged at Newgate prison on 7 March 1811.

The terrible fate of these men, who became known as the Vere Street Coterie, terrorised the gay community in London.  Meanwhile, the mainstream press revelled in it, denouncing the men as “monsters” before the trial had even begun.  Raids like this were unfortunately all too common and were part of a general crackdown on immoral behaviour in the first half of the 19th century.

The British Museum Library was part of this; the Private Case collection was created in response to the Obscene Publications Act, which made the spread of obscene material illegal.  Library staff decided that The Phoenix of Sodom was obscene, obviously because it was about homosexuality, and locked both copies away.  Since then, they’ve been removed from the Private Case and restored to the general collection, where anybody can call them up and examine their account of a disturbing piece of our history.

Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

 

27 August 2019

The Theatre Censors Part 3: George Street

George Street (1867-1936) became Examiner of Plays in 1914.  Street was already a published journalist, critic and novelist.  He wrote summaries of every play he read leaving behind a valuable historic record of the topics that were of most concern to the censor at the time.  Chief among these concerns was the increasing discussion of women’s rights and sexual autonomy in plays submitted for licensing.

Photograph of George Street from Evening Standard 1914Photograph of George Street  from Evening Standard 1 January 1914  - copyright Evening Standard

Maternity was written by Eugène Brieux and translated by Charlotte Shaw.  The play examined the theme of choice in parenthood and voiced the grievances of a woman expected to continue having children.  The result was the woman’s death during an abortion.  This ending prompted the examiner to consider whether it was useful to license the play, as it would serve as a warning to women, but he decided against this stating:
‘I do not think this play can be justified as useful propaganda…the subject of abortion has not so far been allowed on our stage, and is not so treated, in my opinion as to serve a useful purpose..’

In 1923, Street refused a licence for a play entitled Married Love.  This was a fictional adaption of Marie Stopes’ book of the same name.  The play explored themes of sexual satisfaction within marriage.  The play was quickly refused with this damning conclusion:

Play Report rejecting Married Love, calling it unnecessarily disgustingPlay Report for Married Love, 1923, LR 1923/9 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Shortly after the submission of Married Love, Stopes submitted a play entitled Our Ostriches (initially named The Ostriches) under her own authorship.  The play considered the merits of birth control and advocated for women to have more agency in deciding how many children to have.

Cover of Our OstrichesCover of Our Ostriches, 1923, Add MS 68822 L Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Street deemed the play less aggressive in its views than other plays and actually recommended it for licence with certain omissions.   However, the Lord Chamberlain was less sympathetic and he refused it a licence.

Anniversary by Frederick Witney presented a different problem to the censor.  The play was an honest portrayal of a woman on the day of her divorce considering her past and present loves.  It was candid in its female-centred view of an intimate relationship.  Street refused its licence on the basis that:
‘its general freedom of discussion and intimacies are more than is generally allowed on the English stage’.

The play entitled Alone offered another perspective on female desire.  Authored by Marion Norris, it was a rewrite of the banned novel The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall.

Description of the Protagonist based on the character of Stephen in The Well of Loneliness Description of the Protagonist based on the character of Stephen in The Well of Loneliness 1930, Add MS 68834 B Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Alone was refused a licence because of its lesbian theme, but not before Street summarised the anxieties of his age with this statement:
‘I think people are indifferent to the abnormality in women with which it deals until it becomes aggressive…’.

These plays all faced censorship because their content presented women’s sexuality or agency in an affirmative rather than submissive way.  Despite George Street’s best efforts, such themes could not be hidden from view and women continued to make their voices heard on the stage.

Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading:
Steve Nicholson, The Censorship of British Drama, 1900-1968, Volume 1 (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2003)
Lord Chamberlain Play’s, Licence Refused: Add MS 68816 - 68850
Lord Chamberlain Plays Reports, Licence Refused: Original Reference LR 1903- LR 1949

The Theatre Censors Part 1: George Colman

The Theatre Censors Part 2: William Bodham Donne

 

27 June 2019

Homosexuality, Censorship and the British Stage

As Pride month draws to a close we take a look at the censorship of Tennessee William’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and the problems the censoring authorities had with its overt references to homosexuality.

Front cover of the copy of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof submitted to the Lord Chamberlain’s Office in 1955. Front cover of the copy of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof submitted to the Lord Chamberlain’s Office in 1955. British Library, Add MS 68871. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof stands as one of Tennessee Williams’ best-loved plays.  The play’s first performances on Broadway in 1955 met with popular and critical acclaim and it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama that same year.  Problems arose, however, when the play was prepared for production in England where it faced censorship at the hands of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office which was responsible for licensing all plays performed on the British stage.  Concerned at its content, the Lord Chamberlain’s Office sought to excise all swear words and references to homosexuality from the play.

Passages marked in blue pencil by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office deemed inappropriate for public performancePassages marked in blue pencil by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office were deemed inappropriate for public performance. Here the Examiner of Plays objects to the play’s swear words. British Library, Add MS 68871. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The Stage Licensing Act of 1737 (reinforced by the Theatres Act of 1843) required that all plays intended for public performance in Great Britain had to be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain’s Office for examination and licensing.  Plays were submitted to the Lord Chamberlain’s Office and were checked by an Examiner of Plays.  The Examiner recommended whether a licence for performance should be granted or not and any content that was considered inappropriate was cut.  All cuts and amendments were made in blue pencil by the Examiners.  Any play could be banned and the Lord Chamberlain did not need to provide a reason for his decision.  This process of censoring plays in Great Britain lasted from 1737 until 1968 when the law was repealed.   

Passages marked in blue pencil by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office objecting to the play’s references to homosexualityPassages marked in blue pencil by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office objecting to the play’s references to homosexuality. British Library, Add MS 68871. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Set in the Mississippi Delta, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof examines the complicated relationships among members of Big Daddy Pollitt's family – particularly between Brick and his wife Cat.  Themes such as truth and falsehood, life and death, relationships and sexuality are explored throughout the play and it was this last, dealing with sexuality, that caused the Lord Chamberlain’s Office most concern. 

At the heart of the play is Brick, a troubled man who has become an alcoholic following the death of his friend, Skipper.  Brick’s family struggle to maintain functional relationships in the wake of his despair, whilst Brick’s wife, recognises the possibility that her husband may have had a romantic attachment to Skipper.

It was still a criminal offence to be gay in the United Kingdom in 1955 and the Lord Chamberlain’s Office cut all references to Brick’s homosexuality.  The cuts removed much of the depth and complexity in the relationship between Brick and Skipper and as a result Tennessee Williams rejected the amendments, forcing the Lord Chamberlain's Office to refuse a licence for the play to be performed.

Passages marked in blue pencil by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office objecting to the play’s references to homosexuality Passages marked in blue pencil by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office objecting to the play’s references to homosexuality, despite their importance to the play as a whole. British Library, Add MS 68871. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Yet, whilst the Lord Chamberlain’s Office could ban a play from public performance, it had no jurisdiction over private performances which could take place in ‘private’ theatres often established as club theatres where access was granted to audiences who paid a nominal subscription to the club.  Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was first performed ‘privately’ in Britain for The New Watergate Club at The Comedy Theatre in January 1958.  Founded with the intention of staging plays without censorship, the club boasted 64,000 members at the time of the play’s premiere and helped undermine the authority of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office enabling plays with LGBTQ content to be performed uncensored.

The Comedy Theatre, now The Harold Pinter TheatreThe Comedy Theatre, now The Harold Pinter Theatre, where The New Watergate Club put on the first British performance of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof despite the Lord Chamberlain’s ban. Image CC BY 3.0 from Wikipedia

Daniel Brass, King’s College, London, and Alexander Lock, Curator Modern Archives and Manuscripts

 

30 April 2019

Records of homosexuality in 17th century England

Stephen Noble explores manuscript sources recording homosexuality in 17th-century England, using recently catalogued material in the Harley collection. 

There are difficulties in looking at the history of homosexuality through modern eyes. The term ‘homosexuality’ was coined in the 19th century and we cannot know how people from the past would identify with the language we use today.

The Buggery Act of 1533 criminalised homosexual activity between men and as a result, records of people self-identifying are rare. The records that remain tend to focus on the criminalised acts and not the feelings of those performing them, usually containing accusations or gossip using terms like ‘sodomite’, ‘ganymede’, ‘catamite’, ‘bardash’ and ‘tribade’. This also means that, as female homosexual acts were not specifically criminalised, records of male homosexuality are more prevalent. Lower literacy rates amongst women also plays a role in the relative lack of female perspective.

Harley MS 646 contains the autobiography of politician and antiquarian Sir Simonds D’Ewes. When D’Ewes writes about the corruption charges levelled at Sir Francis Bacon in 1621, he goes on to accuse Bacon of the ‘sinne of Sodomie’, and keeping ‘a verie effeminate faced youth to bee his catamite and bedfellow’. He includes a verse ‘Within this sty a hogg doth ly/That must be hang’d for Sodomy’ (‘hogg’ being a play on Bacon’s surname).

Excerpt from the manuscript Autobiography of Sir Simonds d’EwesAutobiography of Sir Simonds d’Ewes, Harley MS 646 f. 59v.

Interestingly, when the autobiography was published in 1845, the editor removed the accusation and changed the words of the verse from ‘sodomy’ to ‘villany’. A footnote states ‘D’Ewes here specifically charged Bacon with an abominable offence, in language too gross for publication’.

Satirical theatre and poetry played a large part in 17th-century literary culture. Sexuality was a common topic, including references to both male and female homosexuality.

Harley MS 7315 contains the poem ‘Venus Reply’, where Venus says that women ‘have got a new game/call’d Flatts…’ (‘game of flats’ being a euphemism for sex between women). The poet also writes of ‘Frogmore Frolics’, referring to rumours of what went on at Frogmore House, home at this time to Viscount Fitzhardinge, where the women are ‘for no Masculine lover’.

Excerpt from manuscript poem 'Venus Reply’'Venus Reply’, Harley MS 7315, f. 285v

In Harley MS 6913 is a poem containing the line ‘…that patient bardash Shrewsbury’, referring to Charles Talbot, 12th Earl of Shrewsbury. What prompts this accusation is not said, but one possible interpretation may be that in 1679, when the poem was written, Shrewsbury converted from Catholicism to Anglicanism.

In the English imagination, homosexuality was often linked with foreigners, especially Catholics and Italians (‘in the Italian way’ was another euphemism for sodomy). Perhaps the poet is using homosexuality as a metaphor and, by referring to Shrewsbury as a ‘patient bardash’, is implying that he had not truly changed his religious views?

Another example of this link between homosexuality and Catholicism in English satire is the play Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery, one of the few remaining manuscript copies of which survives in the Harley collection.

Manuscript title page for ‘Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery’‘Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery’, here attributed to John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, Harley MS 7312, p. 118

Whilst the play deals exclusively with sexual matters, the purpose was not to satirise Charles II’s sexual activities, but rather his toleration of Catholicism and his use of the Royal Prerogative. In Sodom, King Bolloxinion transforms his kingdom by legalising same-sex intercourse and, by the end of the play, becomes increasingly tyrannical. The playwright warns that allowing Charles II to use of the Royal Prerogative to transform religious toleration in England, and leaving his power unchecked, could have similar consequences.

Stephen Noble
Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Follow us on Twitter @BL_ModernMSS

Further Reading

Alan Bray, Homosexuality in Renaissance England (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995)

Marie H. Loughlin (ed.), Same-sex desire in early modern England, 1550-1735: an anthology of literary texts and contexts (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014)

Cameron McFarlane, The sodomite in fiction and satire, 1660-1750 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997)

03 October 2017

Angus Wilson - ‘the most unconventional librarian’

In the entrance of the Humanities reading room at the British Library hangs a painting of a man. It’s easy to overlook this somewhat shady portrait rendered in oil paint of autumnal tones.

  Portrait of Angus Wilson hanging near the entrance to Humanities 1 Reading Room British LibraryPortrait of Angus Wilson hanging near the entrance to Humanities 1 (with apologies for the reflection off the glass) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The man is Sir Angus Wilson - librarian, socialist, decoder, novelist, and gay rights campaigner.

Wilson was born in 1913 in Sussex, the youngest of six boys. He and one of his brothers dyed their hair and wore makeup and red nail varnish in public. Angus became renowned for his flamboyant dress and he developed a love of acting, performing in a school production of The Importance of Being Ernest attended by none other than Lord Alfred Douglas.

Oxford University widened Wilson’s social circle and sharpened his political thinking. He then joined the British Museum library as an assistant cataloguer. During the 1930s Wilson became an established bohemian figure within London’s left underground, attending anti-war demonstrations and socialist league activities.  After the outbreak of World War II, he was called up to work at Bletchley Park. His time there was not happy and he resisted rules and started to rebel. He eventually had a breakdown causing him to seek psychotherapy where he was advised to try writing.

After the War, he returned to the Museum where he was in charge of replacing the 300,000 books that had been destroyed. Other duties included reader enquiries: old ladies trying to track down nursery rhythms from their youth, or people claiming law suits. One female reader fell in love with him and was banned from the reading room.

In her biography of Wilson, Margaret Drabble describes how he sat ‘conspicuously on a raised dais in the centre of the Reading Room beneath Panizzi's beautiful dome, a colourful bird in a vast circular cage, bow-tied, blue-rinsed, chattering loudly to readers and staff and friends on the telephone’.  Wilson’s description of the library is less glamorous: ‘Dickensian’, ‘mummified’ and ‘a sad fog of Victorianism’ where staff wore sober suits and bow ties, although the then keeper of books was the last member of staff to don a top hat in the reading room.

In the mid-1950s Wilson left the Museum to pursue his writing. Homosexuality was still illegal, yet he wrote freely and authentically about the world in which he moved, questioning public and private morality and introducing new social characters. Some public libraries refused to stock his novels on the grounds of them being morally objectionable.

Photograph portrait of Angus Wilson

Sir Angus Frank Johnstone Wilson by Godfrey Argent (commissioned 1969) NPG x166054 © National Portrait Gallery London  CC NPG


Wilson enjoyed safe domesticity with his life companion Tony Garrett, a colleague he met at the museum, always insisting that Tony was acknowledged as his partner.  He was a republican who accepted a knighthood. An advocate and voter for a classless society, yet he moved in exclusive circles.

Angus Wilson died in 1991. His portrait by Barbara Robinson was donated to the British Library by Tony Garrett.  It greets readers as they enter the reading room where LGBT books can now be freely browsed. Flamboyant dress and a blue rinse would no longer cause eyebrows to be raised, although a top hat might!

Rachel Brett
Humanities Reference Specialist

 #BLGayUK

 Further reading:
Angus Wilson Papers Add MS 79507-79516
Angus Wilson Photographs Add MS 83700-83728
Photographs of Angus Wilson by Fay Godwin in her archive at the British Library
Portrait of Sir Angus Wilson (1913-1991) by Barbara Robinson (b. 1928) is on display in the entrance to Humanities 1 Reading Room at the British Library St Pancras
Margaret Drabble, Angus Wilson: a biography (London, 1995)
Angus Wilson in Explore the British Library

 

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