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Monthly Archives: April 2012
Empty Chair, Empty Bed, Empty House
Adapted from Jonathan Ned Katz’s book Love Stories: Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality (University of Chicago Press, 2001). The source citations are available in the printed edition.
|Charles Warren Stoddard|
By November 1874, the American travel journalist Charles Warren Stoddard had given up on the South Seas, the site of earlier sensual adventures recorded in coyly coded form in published articles. He was now pursuing his erotic destiny in Italy.
There in romantic, legendary Venice at the end of the year, “a young man quietly joined me” in a box at the opera during intermission, Stoddard recalled. “We looked at each other and were acquainted in a minute. Some people understand one anotherer at sight, and don’t have to try, either.” Stoddard’s recollection of this meeting was published in Boston’s National Magazine in 1906.
Stoddard’s friend was the American artist Francis Davis Millet. Stoddard was thirty-one in 1874, and Millet was twenty-eight.
During the Civil War, Millet’s father, a Massachusetts doctor, had served as a Union army surgeon, and in 1864, the eighteen-year-old Frank Millet had enlisted as a private, serving first as a drummer boy and then as a surgeon’s assistant.
Young Millet graduated from Harvard in 1869, with a master’s degree in modern languages and literature. While working as a journalist on Boston newspapers, he learned lithography and earned money enough to enroll in 1871 in the Royal Academy, Antwerp. There, unlike anyone before him, he won all the art prizes the school offered and was officially hailed by the king of Belgium.
|Francis Davis Millet|
As secretary of the Massachusetts commission to the Vienna exposition in 1873, Millet formed a friendship with the American Charles Francis Adams, Junior, and then traveled through Turkey, Romania, Greece, Hungary, and Italy, finally settling in Venice to paint.
At the opera, as Stoddard recalled, Millet immediately asked, “Whereare you going to spend the Winter?” He then invited Stoddard to live in his eight-room rented house at 262 Calle de San Dominico, the last residence on the north side of San Marco, next to a shipyard and the Public Garden. “Why not come and take one of those rooms?” the painter offered, “I’ll look after the domestic affairs” — is this a Stoddard double entendre?
Stoddard accepted Millet’s invitation, recalling that they became “almost immediately very much better acquainted.” Did Stoddard go home with Millet that night?
The two lived together during the winter of 1874-75, though Stoddard did not take one of the extra rooms. Millet’s romantic letters to Stoddard make it clear that the men shared a bed in an attic room overlooking the Lagoon, Grand Canal, and Public Garden.
Lack of space did not explain this bed sharing, and Stoddard’s earlier and later sexual liaisons with men, his written essays and memoirs, and Millet’s letters to Stoddard, provide good evidence that their intimacy found active affectionate and erotic expressIon.
Though Stoddard’s erotic interests seem to have focused exclusively on men, Millet’s were more fluid. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Millet’s psychic configuration was probably the more common, Stoddard’s exclusive interest in men the less usual. In any case, the ranging of Millet’s erotic interest between men and women was not then understood as “bisexual”, a mix of “homo” and “hetero.” The hetero-homo division had not yet been invented.
Another occupant of the house was Giovanni, whom Stoddard called “our gondolier, cook, chambermaid and errand-boy.” His use of “maid” and “boy” hint at gender doubling, and, perhaps, at sexual nonconformity. (Giovanni’s last name, not mentioned, is lost to history, typical in masters’ accounts of servants.)
That winter, Millet taught Giovanni to prepare two classic New England dishes, baked beans and fish balls, and during the cold months, Stoddard recalled, he and Millet dined Massachusetts style in their warm Italian kitchen.
From the window of this kitchen in warmer weather, Stoddard recalled, they watched “the supple figures of half-nude artisans” working in an adjoining shipyard. It was “no wonder that we lingered over our meals there,” said Stoddard, without explaining that lingering. Visual, alimentary, and erotic pleasures are repeatedly linked in Stoddard’s and Millet’s writings, as we will see.
During the daytime, Millet painted in their home’s courtyard while Stoddard dozed, smoked, and wrote columns about Venice and other Italian cities for the San Francisco Chronicle. They dined early and took gondola rides at sunset.
In a newspaper column that Stoddard published early in his relationship with Millet, the journalist wrote of “spoons” with “my fair” (an unnamed woman) in a gondola’s covered “lovers’ cabin,” and of “her memory of a certain memorable sunset–but that is between us two!” Stoddard here changed the sex of his fair one when discussing “spooning” (kissing, making out) in his published writing. Walt Whitman also employed this literary subterfuge, changing the sex of the male who inspired a poem to a female in the final, published version.
Touring Italy: January 1875
In late January 1875, Stoddard, seeking new cities to write about for the Chronicle, made a three-week tour of northern Italy, revising these memoirs twelve years later for the Catholic magazine Ave Maria, published at Notre Dame University. Stoddard wrote that his unnamed painter friend accompanied him as guide and “companion-in-arms,” a punning name for his bed mate–the companion in his arms. This definitely intended pun allowed Stoddard to imply more about this companionship than he could say directly. A variety of other, barely coded references lace Stoddard’s writing with allusions to eros between men.
In Padua, for example, Stoddard wrote that he and his companion were struck by views of “lovely churches and the tombs of saints and hosts of college boys.” Casually including “hosts of college boys” among the “lovely” religious sights of Padua, and substituting “hosts of … boys” for the proverbial “angels,” Stoddard’s sacrilege-threatening run-on sentence suggested that, to these two tourists, at least, the boys looked heavenly.
In another case, on the train to Florence, Stoddard and his companion noticed a tall “fellow who had just parted with his friend” at a station. As “soon as they had kissed each other on both cheeks — a custom of the country;’ Stoddard explained to nonkissing American men, the traveler was “hoisted into our compartment.” But “no sooner did the train move off, than he was overcome, and, giving way to his emotion, he lifted up his voice like a trumpeter,” filling the car with “lamentations.” For half an hour “he bellowed lustily, but no one seemed in the least disconcerted at this monstrous show of feeling; doubtless each in his turn had been similarly affected.”
Suggesting, slyly, that bellowing “lustily” was common among parting men friends and represented the expression of a deep, intense, and by no means unusual feeling, Stoddard pointed to a ubiquitous male eros, not one limited to men of a special, unique, man-loving temperament.
Typically keeping a sharp eye out for the varieties of physically expressed attachment between males, he also invoked Walt Whitman’s poem on the tender parting of men friends on a pier: “The one to remain hung on the other’s neck and passionately kiss’d him, / While the one to depart tightly prest the one to remain in his arms.” That poem, and Stoddard’s essay, suggest that parting provided, in the nineteenth century, a public occasion for the physical expression of intense love between men, a custom that had special resonance for men, like Stoddard, attracted to men.
Among the statues that Stoddard admired in Florence were “The Wrestlers, tied up in a double-bow of monstrous muscles” — another culturally sanctioned icon of physical contact between, in this case, scantily clad men.
In Genoa, Stoddard recalled seeing a “captivating” painting of the “lovely martyr” St. Sebastian, a “nude torso” of “a youth as beautiful as Narcissus”–yet another classic, undressed male image suffused with eros. The “sensuous element predominates,” in this art work, said Stoddard, and “even the blood-stains cannot disfigure the exquisite lustre of the flesh.”
In Sienna, Stoddard recorded, he and his companion-in-arms slept in a “great double bed … so white and plump it looked quite like a gigantic frosted cake–and we were happy.” The last phrase directly echoes Stoddard’s favorite Walt Whitman Calamus poem in which a man’s friend lies “sleeping by me under the same cover in the cool night” — “and that night I was happy.” Sleeping happily with Millet in that cake/bed, Stoddard again linked food and bodily pleasure. In Sienna, Stoddard and Millet also looked at frescos by the artist nicknamed “Sodoma”, Giovanni Bazzi, the outspoken 16th century artist.
Back in Venice: Spring 1875
Back in their Venice home in spring 1875, Stoddard recalled one day seeing “a tall, slender and exceedingly elegant figure approaching languidly.”
|A. A. Anderson|
This second American artist, A. A. Anderson, appeared one Sunday at Millet’s wearing a “long black cloak of Byronic mold,” one corner of which was “carelessly thrown back over his arm, displaying a lining of cardinal satin.” The costume was enhanced by a gold-threaded, damask scarf and a broad-brimmed hat with tassels.
In Stoddard’s published memoirs, identifying Anderson only as “Monte Cristo,” the journalist recalled the artist’s “uncommonly comely face of the oriental–oval and almond- eyed type.” Entranced by the “glamor” surrounding Monte Cristo, Stoddard soon passed whole days “drifting with him” in his gondola, or walking ashore.
Invited to dinner by Monte Cristo, Stoddard and his friend (Millet) found Monte occupying the suite of a “royal princess, it was so ample and so richy furnished.” (Monte was a “princess,”‘ Stoddard hints.)
Funded by an inheritance from dad, Monte had earlier bought a steam yacht and cruised with an equally rich male friend to Egypt, then given the yacht away to an Arab potentate. Later, while Stoddard was visiting Paris, he found himself at once in the “embrace of Monte Cristo,” recalling: “That night was Arabian, and no mistake!” Stoddard’s reference to The Arabian Nights, a classic text including man-love episodes, also invoked a western mystique of “oriental” sex.
To England and Robert William Jones
After the beautiful Anderson left Venice, Stoddard, the perennial rover, found it impossible to settle down any longer in the comfortable, loving domesticity offered by Millet. The journalist may also have needed new sights to inspire the travel writing that supported him. On May 5, 1875, he therefore set off for Chester, England, to see Robert William Jones, a fellow with whom, a year earlier, he had shared a brief encounter and who had since been sending him passionate letters.
Stoddard’s flight, after living with Millet for about six months, marked a new phase in their relationship. Millet now became the devoted pursuer, Stoddard the ambivalent pursued.
- Adapted and republished on OutHistory without the original backnote citations from Jonathan Ned Katz’s “Empty Chair, Empty Bed, Empty House”, Chapter 14, in Love Stories: Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), pages 202-219.
- Stoddard and Millet had met earlier in Rome, according to Peter Engstrom, Francis Davis Millet: A Titanic Life (East Bridgewater, Massachusetts: Millet Studio Publishing, 2010), page 62.
- Photos: Syracuse University Library.
- The address is given by Peter Engstrom, Francis Davis Millet: A Titanic Life (East Bridgewater, Massachusetts: Millet Studio Publishing, 2010), page 60. A Google Maps view of the area is available at: http://maps.google.com/maps?ftr=earth.promo&hl=en&utm_campaign=en&utm_medium=van&utm_source=en-van-na-us-gns-erth&utm_term=evl
- James Saslow is working on a book about Sodoma: see http://maps.google.com/maps?ftr=earth.promo&hl=en&utm_campaign=en&utm_medium=van&utm_source=en-van-na-us-gns-erth&utm_term=evl
- Photo: page 123 in Elmer S. Dean, “A. A. Anderson, Painter and Citizen.” The Broadway Magazine, May 1904, Vol. XIII, No. 2, pages 123-128. For more on Anderson see Gerald M. Ackerman, American Orientalists (Art Creation Realisation, September 1, 1994, ISBN-10: 2867700787. ISBN-13: 978-2867700781), page 270, accessed February 3, 2012 from http://books.google.com/books?id=onraQlj_C7wC&pg=PA270&lpg=PA270&dq=A.+A.+Anderson+painter+Venice+1875&source=bl&ots=AmTqc0Dk5I&sig=CC5m1fgr1tZHSxZHwAI6TRf3M-g&hl=en&sa=X&ei=eVwsT6pMyczYBae8hIEP&sqi=2&ved=0CCwQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=A.%20A.%20Anderson%20painter%20Venice%201875&f=false. Also see: Abraham Archibald Anderson. Experiences and Impressions: The Autobiography of Colonel A. A. Anderson. New York, 1908.
- The date that Stoddard left is cited by Peter Engstrom, Francis Davis Millet: A Titanic Life (East Bridgewater, Massachusetts: Millet Studio Publishing, 2010), page 66.
WHAT think you I take my pen in hand to record?
The battle-ship, perfect-model’d, majestic, that I saw pass the offing to-day under full sail?
The splendors of the past day? Or the splendor of the night that envelopes me?
Or the vaunted glory and growth of the great city spread around me?—No;
But I record of two simple men I saw to-day, on the pier, in the midst of the crowd, parting the parting of dear friends;
The one to remain hung on the other’s neck, and passionately kiss’d him,
While the one to depart, tightly prest the one to remain in his arms.
An excerpt from this poem is featured in my post for tomorrow, so stay tuned.
“It’s our most potent modern parable, the great ship, deemed unsinkable, going down on her maiden voyage,” says author Hugh Brewster on why we’re still talking about the Titanic a century after its tragic sinking. “The stories of how people behaved on that sloping deck are haunting and unforgettable.”
Brewster, the writer and historian behind several best-selling books about the doomed ship, provides a thoughtfully researched and vividly drawn look at those haunting and unforgettable stories in the brand-new Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic’s First-Class Passengers and Their World. Told through portraits of some its most fascinating and well-off wayfarers, the book provides some startling revelations about the private lives of travelers like artist and writer Francis Millet and his friend (and former roommate) Major Archibald Butt, military aide to presidents William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt.
Of particular interest to LGBT readers is Brewster’s implication that the two might have been more than friends. He writes that while Butt, a “dandified bachelor with an intense devotion to his mother, seems a more likely gay man than Frank Millet, the decorated war correspondent and married father of three,” the surviving correspondence from Millet to San Francisco poet Charles Warren Stoddard points to Millet’s homosexuality being more than just a youthful bohemian phase.
“Since homosexuality was once an imprisonable offense,” Brewster tells The Advocate, “incriminating diaries and letters were usually destroyed, which is why it is remarkable that Frank Millet’s unequivocally homoerotic youthful love letters to Stoddard have survived.”
In Millet’s final letter, mailed from the Titanic in Queenstown, Ireland, four days before it went down, the artist wrote to another friend that a perusal of the passenger list had led him to believe that there were a good number of “our people” on the voyage.
While most books about the oft-depicted disaster place the Titanic as the tragedy’s main character, Gilded Lives lets her notable passengers take center stage. The result is a fascinating story of people gay and straight whose demises are as heartbreaking today as they were a century ago.
|Archie Butt (right) with President William Howard Taft.|
Brewster is not the only historian asserting that Francis Millet and his friend Archibald Butt may have been gay. Historian James Gifford’s writing also studies the lives of two passengers aboard Titanic. The essay can be read on OutHistory.org. It asserts that, while travelling companions Archibald Willingham Butt and Francis D Millet were not lovers, there is evidence that both were gay.
Archibald Butt, known as Archie, was an influential military aide to US presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. He is described by Gifford as ‘camp’ and a ‘dandy’ who was always impeccably dressed.
In the essay Gifford says: ‘The Washington newspapers seemed to have enjoyed guessing what female Butt would settle down with, ears attentive to any possible romantic connection.’
This, however, doesn’t satisfy Gifford, who was fascinated by Butt’s lifelong single status. He suggests that Butt, whose name was often attached to a number of different women in newspapers, gained his reputation as a ladies man from his gallantry, rather than anything sexual. He states that Butt ‘never took women as romantic partners very seriously’.
Gifford continues: ‘Most accounts referred to him as a lifelong bachelor. A handsome man who stayed in shape, Butt’s not marrying was a sticking point for me.
‘Of course there is no conclusive evidence that Archibald Butt was gay, and I find it highly unlikely, given Archie’s careful self-image control, that he ever committed to paper any overt thoughts of such a nature. He was too canny an individual for that, too conscious of the risk in military and political ranks, where such an idea would have put a quick end to any hopes of advancement.
‘So I can only suggest that my research results in an “impression” that he was homosexual. What struck me when I presented this idea to members of the Titanic Historical Society was that they all seemed to feel that the very idea of his possible homosexuality cast aspersion on Archie, that it dishonored him.
‘Of course men can like antiques, be mother-obsessed, remain an inveterate bachelor, notice the colors of ladies’ dresses, live constantly in a home full of men, without being gay. We all know that, yes. But my gaydar was telling me something else.’
|A portrait of Millet by Daniel H. Burnham.|
While Gifford’s findings on Butt are inconclusive, when it comes to Francis Millet, knows as Frank, he turns up far more convincing evidence.
Millet is known to have an affair with writer Charles Warren Stoddard in Venice in 1875. Stoddard would later leave him, devastating Millet.
Gifford even says that before researching Butt: ‘So far as I knew, Millet was the only gay man to die on the Titanic.’
In fact, he notes: ‘It wasn’t until further research indicated that he was travelling with Archie Butt that I started wondering about their relationship. As well as Archie’s sexuality.’
Though they stayed separately on Titanic, they often shared a room on land.
While Gifford stops short of suggesting Butt and Millet were lovers, he points to sources that are more convinced of the pairing.
He says: ‘Writer Richard Davenport-Hines, in a March 2012 article for The Daily, refers to Butt and Millet (without citing sources) as lovers, but his simultaneously published book, Voyagers of the Titanic makes no similar claim.’
Gifford also quotes a newspaper piece written after their death that says: ‘The two men shared a sympathy of mind which was most unusual. None could help admiring either man.’
However, he concludes that: ‘Evidence about their friendship continues to remain elusive. To this day, I could find nothing concrete about this relationship.’
OutHistory founder Jonathan Ned Katz told the Huffington Post that while Gifford found no concrete evidence that Butt and Millet were lovers ‘he did end up thinking that when all of the aspects of Butt’s personality were put together, it suggested to him that he may have been a repressed homosexual’.
- “Coming Out on the Titanic,” By Winston Gieseke, Posted on Advocate.com March 13, 2012.
- “Titanic Anniversary: Ship’s Gay Passengers Revealed In New Research,” Huffington Post, Posted April 13,2012.
Generally, when I pray, it is a solitary moment when I have a conversation with God. Thanking him for all that he does for me and praying for guidance. I have a somewhat set way in which I pray, so I never use pre-written prayers. However, I know that some do, and some wonder how to prayer. The “Model Prayer”: or “Lord’s Prayer” is given to us by Jesus in the Matthew 6:9-15. It is probably the prayer we most hear and is how Jesus teaches us how to pray.
Below is a prayer for hope. I found this prayer while searching the internet and fell in love with the beauty of it, though I have altered it a little. There are times when we need to share with God our outlook, and a prayer of hope and strength is an important part of our conversations with God. We need to tell God what we want or what we need. Sometimes God will agree, sometimes he will use those times to point us in His direction. Yet a prayer of hope also means giving us a lift when we know God is there, but maybe are struggling to feel or hear Him. Here is a simple prayer you can say when you feel hopeful:
Dear Lord, thank you so much for all the blessings you have provided in my life. I have so much, and I know it is all because of you. I ask you today to continue to provide me with these blessings and to provide me with the opportunities I need to continue to do your work here.
You always stand beside me. You provide me with a future full of your love, blessings, and guidance. I know that, no matter how bad things get, you will always be by my side. I know I may not see you. I know I may not feel you, but I thank You for giving us Your Word that tells us you are here.
Give me the strength I need. Protect me each step of the way. Be with me each time I come out to a friend, a loved one, or a relative. Prepare the way for me, so Your love will transform their hearts. Give me the strength to face those show hatred to me and those like me, who you created to love unconditionally and to be true to our hearts. Thank you for giving me the strength to be who I am and face the daily prejudices of the world.
You know my dreams, Lord, and I know it is a lot to ask to realize those dreams, but I ask that you hear my prayer of hope. I would like to think that my hopes and dreams are all part of your plans for me, but I trust that you always know best. I put my dreams in your hands to mold and fit to your will. I surrender my hopes to you. In Christ’s name, we pray, Amen.
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Though right now it doesn’t feel a lot like summer and it is still spring (it is getting down to the 40s at night here and the days are perfect weather–not too cold and not too hot, but just right), the boys of summer are definitely out. Baseball season is on, and I love baseball season. The metaphors are never ending with balls and bats, but honestly, I do love baseball. I have to admit though, that like with all sports, I am not a fan of professional sports. I do not like the MLB, though I do consider myself an Atlanta Braves fan, and I think I realized that I was gay with my love of Jose Canseco back when he played for the Oakland A’s (before he became a pumped-up steroid buffoon). Canseco was so hot back then. I collected baseball cards, but most only his. I mostly enjoy watching college sports. The only professional athletes I watch are in men’s tennis.
I know what you’re wondering. Why is he so excited about baseball? What is so appealing about a three-hour game where no one gets tackled (football), no one dunks (basketball), guys aren’t punching each other’s teeth out on the ice (hockey), there are no spectacular wrecks (NASCAR), and where there can be sometimes lengthy stretches when, frankly, nothing happens. Why should I watch such a sport? Those above may actually be reasons why most of us may not like sports, but there are many reasons why I love baseball, and I find it so much fun to watch.
Let me get out of the way the totally superficial eye candy reasons why I love baseball. Baseball players have fantastic bodies. They have uniforms that accentuate their assets, and let’s face it baseball players tend to have fantastic behinds. What’s not to like? Yes, it can be slow, but that is one of the things I love about it. If the game gets boring, you can get up and do something else or take a nap, but still wake up or get back to the game before it ends. Look away from most sports for just a minute and you may miss a huge play, except for NASCAR, when you are guaranteed that they will turn left around the track. However, with baseball, you look up and there is guaranteed to be eye candy on the screen. In the words of Yogi Berra, “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” The two together make it a glorious game.
Baseball is, at its core, a conversation. Something happens on the field. We consider it and wonder what might come next. Then another thing happens and we contemplate further. I love baseball because it affords me the opportunity to forget about the mundane concerns of everyday life for a while. Baseball is, in the truest sense, a pastime, i.e., “something that amuses and serves to make time pass agreeably.” In a world that demands much of us and our limited time here, there’s something to be said for passing it agreeably. As Walt Whitman said, “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game.”
So much has been going on this week, that I almost don’t know up from down. I had several emails that I needed to catch up on, I can be terribly slow about answering emails, but rest assured that if you emailed me recently, I will get back to you as soon as I can. However, last night I came home from my night class so tired that I just crawled into bed, watched a couple of episodes of “Big Bang Theory” on TBS, and then fell asleep. I just couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer. I needed a good night of sleep.