Crimson Letter, The
[ I ]WARRIOR AND AESTHETECharting the Continuum
1.The Warrior Archetype: Walt Whitman's HarvardYou want to be brothers-in-arms, to have him to yourself ... to be shipwrecked together, [to] perform valiant deeds to earn his admiration, to save him from certain death, to die for him--to die in his arms, like a Spartan, kissed once on the lips.--Tom Stoppard, THE INVENTION OF LOVE
ARTS AND SCIENCES, the age-old academic way of seeing the world. Compare and contrast, the examiner's perennial question. The artistic personality and the scientific? It is a good typology for the cast of characters in any play about Harvard, and thus for Harvard's gay experience I propose somewhat of a variant: the archetype, on the one hand, of the warrior (this chapter) and, on the other, of the aesthete (next chapter)--each an actual, indeed personal, presence in Harvard Yard in historical time, each a key vector, as scholars of Proust might put it, in psychological time ever since (and even in the very different Yard of today). Behold, then, Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde, the second of whom, of course, it would be easy enough to cast as representing the artistic personality. But the leading homosexual examples of the scientific personality that have been most tellingly advanced--Austro-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and British mathematician and coinventor of the computer Alan Turing--disclose at once why it would be more than a little forced to cast Whitman in like profile. He was a poet, after all. Like Homer, however, Whitman sang of epic days; lived them, too. And perhaps because Harvard, whatever lens you look at it through, is above all an American story, its gay experience, historically, is not chiefly of Wilde's influence--though (like the Beatles later) Wilde certainly took America by storm. But it was Whitman whose influence took deepest root in Harvard Yard, decades before Wilde was seen cruising Harvard's fine new gymnasium: Whitman, as Homer might have said, of the fierce days, or, as Emerson did say, of the bold words.Never bolder than on Boston Common, where on a sharp late-winter's day early in 1860 America's Plato, Ralph Waldo Emerson, perhaps Harvard'smost illustrious graduate still, walked the Beacon Street path the better part of several hours with the poet most would agree is America's greatest. Back and forth, up and down, Whitman confronted Emerson's misgivings and foreboding about the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass with deep feeling that day: the end of it all, what Whitman called "a bully dinner"1--and the publication of perhaps the most famous homosexual poetry ever written.Of their dialogue that afternoon Robert K. Martin, a literary critic and professor of English at the University of Montreal, has declared that its great import lay in the fact that it was the keystone in Whitman's overarching, lifelong vocation: to name same-sex love in the modern era. He called it "adhesive," as opposed to "amative," borrowing from the language of phrenology a term Whitman applied to a love that, in Martin's words, had "been recognized for thousands of years ... [and been] implied in the Bible"--David and Jonathan's "love passing that of woman"--but was otherwise nameless. There was, Martin reiterates, "no word for this love ...Whitman was indeed Emerson's 'poet as namer.'" Martin concludes: "He gave that love the first name it had of its own, albeit a poor and borrowed one."2Now the greatest Bostonian came in from Concord to see the visiting poet (so recounts Whitman's most recent biographer, Jerome Loving), calling at Whitman's humble boardinghouse (rooms two dollars a week), off run-down Bowdoin Street behind the domed State House on the crowded north slope of old Beacon Hill. Emerson, too, was the host at dinner, at the American House, a posh hotel nearby. Boston did not disdain Brooklyn. Harvard's philosopher king took the rough, uneducated poet very seriously. And although what we know of their discussion suggests they focused on the "Children of Adam" section about heterosexual love, it was Whitman's overall attitude to sexuality in Leaves of Grass, of which the "Calamus" section on homosexual love (new to this 1860 edition) was the most radical expression, that drove the debate so vigorously.3They had argued long and hard, and it was a conversation Whitman cherished--"more precious than gold to me," he later wrote of their afternoon walk. Emerson, Whitman wrote later, was "in his prime, keen physically and morally magnetic, arm'd at every point, and when he chose, wielding the emotional just as well as the intellectual ... . It was an argument-statement, reconnoitering, review, attack, and pressing home (like an army corps in order, artillery, cavalry, infantry) ... ."4 After all, Emerson was keen: in his biographer Justin Kaplan's words, Leaves of Grass was a book he had "stood grandfather to."5 Altered, would there be as good a book left? Whitman asked. Emerson, considering, said he thought not. Even in aid of his own view he would not bend his truth: "I did not say as good a book, I said a good book." Whitman, confirmed in his opinion, changed nothing. "The dirtiest book in all the world is the expurgated book," he said later. "Expurgation is apology," Whitman declared, "an admission that something or other was wrong." Though he would also write that "I have not livedto regret my Emerson no," he also affirmed, "Read all the Emerson you can." He was "not conclusive on all points, but no man more helps to a conclusion."6
MASCULINE. SOCRATIC. WHITMANIC. But, however enduring the poetry, Whitman's name for this nameless love hardly stuck. Nor his style. Both were virtually dead a century later when, in the 1950s and '60s, the dramatic change in "gay," as it was beginning to be called, from the androgyny and effeminacy that in the intervening century had become fashionable to the "new clone" look of the 1970s and '80s was explained by Felice Picano. Picano, among the foremost members of the seminal early 1980s New York literary coterie, the Violet Quill, whose other members included Edmund White and Andrew Holleran, pointed out that by the 1950s the most visible homosexuals had come to accept the medical and legal establishments' view that homosexuals constituted a "third sex." As such, for example, they "dressed not recognizably as men, not as women, but midway in between," in a style Picano called "fluffy sweater queens." Similarly, "their walk could be characterized as mincing."Protesting that he did "not mean to belittle or demean these people," whom he called "courageous and defiant" in the face of a "conformist, xenophobic, lockstep society," Picano, though he admitted they were the "only homosexual role models extant," pointed out that "for most gay men they were inappropriate either as models or as sex objects." Indeed, Picano concluded, the masculine clone style "had nothing at all to do with 'not being female.' Rather, it had to do with taking back from The Man a masculine gay identity [emphasis added]. Gay men came to see they were not some third sex ...but instead male-sexed men who had sex with other such men."7To this history lesson out of his own life, Picano made a point of adding his own memory of why so many--particularly "macho" heterosexual men and ardently feminist women--found what was really a revival of Whitmanic style in the 1970s so threatening: "Gay clones were men without women or children ... . Possessing no weak links that could be used against them as blackmail or held against them as hostages, clones could not be controlled or corralled. They could only be gotten at by direct, physical force, and in a one-on-one fight, they had a pretty good chance of winning."Now Picano's purpose remains contemporary and controversial, intended then as now to protest the 1990s fashion of reinventing "lesbigay history to suit current politically correct attitudes," particularly about the historic 1969 Stonewall Riots; "not ... achieved," he wrote, "by those super heroes: dykes and drag queens. The truth is quite different ... . Of those actually there, and thus those responsible for early gay politics having taken off, it was not in the racially balanced, ethnic-and-gender-correct proportions that the lesbigay media paraded in 1994, but was instead comprised of about 95 percent middle-class whites, mostly college-educated males."In a larger sense, however, Picano was also recapitulating in our own time what I see as the two chief polarities of gay history, a reflection of the two great homosexual archetypes: that of the warrior, and that of the aesthete; in other words, in the modern period, Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde.Leonard Bernstein, who will figure importantly in this study, is a good example of the tensions between the Whitmanic and the Wildean. Himself a powerful man in every sense--a giant of a conductor in a profession few gays had then mastered--Bernstein was yet a child of his era and at a party in San Francisco where he met Tom Waddell, he showed it clearly enough. Waddell, a hero of the traditional Olympics (in fact, an Olympic decathlete in 1968), sought to create a gay equivalent to the Olympic Games he had so excelled in.8 Before he was forbidden to use the term (for what are now called the Gay Games), he had planned to call them the Gay Olympics. Bernstein's response? "My god--who needs Gay Olympics?" But as Waddell turned on his heels and walked away, seething, Bernstein, himself provoked, gave his own game away; his voice pursued Waddell: "Who's that fucking queen?" "If he hadn't been drunk, I think I'd have punched him," Waddell told Paul Moor. Added Moor: "One dares hardly even to think of the resultant headlines."9 As we will see, there was more than a little Wilde in Whitman, and no little Whitman in Wilde. But the archetypes they exemplify are nonetheless profoundly different.Whitman first, or--because this book is about Harvard--Ralph Waldo Emerson.Emerson's StoryTHE SAGE OF Concord showed his hand clearly enough with respect to homosexuality when in Representative Men (1850) he declared: "Let none presume to measure the irregularities of Michel Angelo and Socrates by village scales."10 Ouch: it can still be a salutary prick to our conscience in our own time. I am reminded of George Washington's judgment against slavery. Both pricks--both judgments--are decisive answers to the so-called presentism defense, which "can be useful for almost any era and almost any misdeed," in the words of historian and author Henry Wiencek. He recently responded to an attempt to defend Yale University from its entanglement with slavery by a University of California linguist intent on presentism's key assertion that "it's downright inappropriate to render a moral judgment ... based on moral standards which didn't exist at the time." Noting that even Jefferson, himself racist, nonetheless saw slavery in its true colors, Wieneck returned fire briskly:George Washington was an enthusiastic slaveholder in his early decades; ... but by the end of his life he found slavery repugnant. In his will Washington freed his slaves and specified that the children be educated ... . Ifwe accept the statement "it's downright inappropriate to render a moral judgment" on slavery, we are more willing to accept slavery than George Washington was.If the founders had such misgivings over slavery, how is it that they allowed slavery to continue? The answer is not that they didn't know any better, but that they kept slavery so the Southern states would join the union ... . 11And just as Wieneck concludes we "compound" the sin by "draping a veil of innocence over the transaction" (he sees, of course, that "the true beneficiary of the presentism defense is not the past but the present"), so we note the implied criticism of Emerson's dismissive "village scales."It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that Robert K. Martin has written:The Transcendentalists were the first group in America to explore the relations between persons of the same sex, and they did so through their understanding of Platonic philosophy and German Romanticism. Ralph Waldo Emerson ...had been infatuated with a classmate, Martin Gay, at Harvard ... .His concept of friendship was gendered male and seen as superior to heterosexual love ... .Thoreau also had difficulty reconciling an abstract commitment to friendship with an aversion to the physical ... .Margaret Fuller also participated in the discourses of friendship ... [and she insisted on] a fundamental androgyny: "There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman."12Indeed, Emerson's infatuation with Gay (later a respected Boston doctor) is a much overlooked but key aspect of his life.It was in the fall of 1819 at Harvard that young Waldo, in the words of his latest biographer, Robert D. Richardson, "found himself strangely and powerfully attracted by a new freshman named Martin Gay," at whom he found himself looking and looking, and Gay, it would seem, looking back. "The disturbing power of the glances"13 troubled Emerson, wrote Richardson, while Justin Kaplan reported that forthwith Emerson "wrote ardent poetry about [Gay] as well as a fantasy laced with sexual symbolism."14 Nor did it end there. According to Richardson, Emerson "remain[ed] susceptible to such crushes, expressed at first through glances, all his life," and though Richardson is careful to observe that "most of them would involve women [emphasis added]," leaving it at that and dropping the subject, he added that Emerson, at least in the case of Martin Gay, took pains to cover his tracks. Though the original journal entries were in Latin in the first place, at some later point Richardson agrees with Kaplan that Emerson deliberately defaced them, "heavily cross [ing] out the Martin Gay journal notes."15 Other scholars attribute the deed to Emerson's son Edward.Biographer Graham Robb has put both sides of the issue very well:According to one view, it is crudely anachronistic to see friendships of two centuries ago as evidence of homosexuality. Michel Foucault suggested in 1976 that the homosexual ...was invented by doctors in the mid-19th-century ... .The effect has been to cordon off all gay experience that predates the advent of psychology ... .Only the most literal-minded poststructuralist would claim, however, that there was no such thing as homosexual passion until the word "homosexual" was coined in the second half of the 19th century. The apparent lack of references to what we now call homosexuality is misleading. It was "the crime not to be named among Christians," which, of course, was a convenient way of referring to it.16This was, naturally, decades before Whitman. In addition to his infatuation with Gay, there are many other wonders in Emerson's life and work to account for, as well as a good deal of literary and philosophical material. Perhaps because of his own unhappy experience of heterosexual marriage, in his essay "Love" Emerson very deliberately allowed a safe refuge for all in opposite-sex or same-sex harbors.17 Never mind that he filled a 250-page notebook with translations from the Persian, mostly of the work of the fourteenth-century poet Hafez, famously homoerotic--"almost all ... poems of love, wine, fire and desire" in Richardson's words--or that some of Emerson's own best poetry ("Bacchus," for instance) was written under what his biographer calls "the intoxicating spell of Hafez," it is significant that Emerson made no attempt in his translations to change the gender of poems addressed by Hafez to a youth he liked: "Take my heart in thy hand, O beautiful boy of Shiraz! / I would give for the mole on thy cheek Samarcand and Buchara."18Then there is what has been called a "sensuous daydream about intimacy with a man" from Emerson's journal entry of 7 June 1838: He imagines being "shut up in a little schooner bound on a voyage of three or four weeks with a man--an entire stranger--of a great and regular mind of vast resources of his nature." Nothing would be forced: "I would not speak to him, I would not look at him; [ ... ] so sure should I be of him, so luxuriously should I husband my joys that I should steadily hold back all the time, make no advances, leaving altogether to Fortune for hours, for days, for weeks even, the manner and degrees of intercourse." Emerson went on to describe the man as one with whom he could "bathe and dilute ... my greater self; he is me, and I am him."19 How similar all this sounds to Emerson's diary entries about his and Gay's everyday life in Harvard Yard: "I, observing him, just before we met turned another corner and most strangely avoided him. This morning I went out to meet him in a different direction and stopped to speak with a lounger in order to be directly in [Gay's] way, but [he] turned into the first gate and went towards Stoughton [Hall]."20The deliberate avoidances piqued rather than quashed Emerson's interest. Similarly, Emerson, hearing of a report that Gay was "dissolute," wasdisappointed he could still not shake free of his feelings. In April 1821, after a year of what today we'd call "cruising," the two had yet to exchange "above a dozen words."21 As Emerson would bluntly write in later years, "Men cease to interest us when we find their limitations."22 But not Gay. Not with Emerson. And this despite the fact--if "dissolute" has some relation with "vileness"--that Emerson may more and more have sensed what was at issue; in the years following his crush on Gay several entries on friendship in Emerson's journal degenerate almost to rants, rants on the dangers of "vileness." 23Views differ on the various meanings of all this fugitive data. Richardson feels Emerson's candor about his feelings for Gay is evidence that Emerson was "rather innocent and essentially unembarrassed."24 Caleb Crain, on the other hand, in his superb study, American Sympathy: Men, Friendship, and Literature in the New Nation, suggests Emerson's attitudes, so contradictory to posterity's impression of him, are explained by nothing more complicated than the fact that "homosexuality was taboo in Victorian America": "This simple explanation has no high theoretical glamour to recommend it," writes Crain, "but it clears up a number of long-standing paradoxes about Emerson's heart."25He does not argue Emerson was gay. He knows, and says clearly, that "gay love as we know it is modern," and as Thoreau wrote, "the past cannot be presented." But Crain also knows how misleading it has proved to be to dismiss the history of romantic same-sex love. He writes:[T]hough the terms and words and social categories have changed, I suspect that because such people exist now, they existed then. As Emerson put it, "One nature wrote and the same reads." ... I am afraid that poststructuralist gay critics have outwitted themselves ... . "There is no event but sprung somewhere from the soul of man," [Emerson] wrote in "Literary Ethics," "and therefore there is none but the soul of man can interpret."26Crain, as a matter of fact, is distinctly in a position to know, for when he notes that the words and the social categories may have changed, but not the facts of the matter, he does so from the perspective of the time of his own study, the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, so many words and terms and categories of which are unrecognizable to us today. Of that era, moreover, Crain has this to say of what he calls the reign of "sympathy," also called sentiment or sensibility, which he notes for a century and a half "had the force of a biological fact ... . Well into the nineteenth century, undergraduates at Harvard and Princeton studied it ... . Not until Darwin observed that competition, not cooperation, was the law of nature did its scientific prestige falter." And, according to Crain, two of his case studies in American Sympathy--the relationship of John André (the British officer inthe American War of Independence hanged as a spy after negotiating the surrender of West Point) with a Philadelphia youth, John Cope, and that of a late-eighteenth-century Princeton undergraduate, James Gibson, with a Philadelphia businessman, John F. Mifflin--were just such intense examples of "sympathy," so much so he feels compelled to ask: "Did it mean they had sex?" He answers, "In antebellum America, men said little about sex between men. About their romantic feelings for one another, on the other hand, men were garrulous and subtle." Moreover, of the relationships between Gibson and Mifflin, Crain says more: not only that his study of the diaries of both offers "ample evidence that at the height of sympathy's reign, American men could express emotions to each other with a fervor and openness that could not have been detached from religious enthusiasm a generation earlier and would have to be consigned to sexual perversion a few generations later," but that whether or not they actually had sex, "they held each other in a regard that we would call sexual." Indeed, Crain seems to anticipate somewhat the provocative subtitle of Jonathan Ned Katz's Love Stories of 2001: Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality.27It is in the context of this historical evolution of categories and terms (indeed, "the shape of sympathy had changed" between André's era and Emerson's later) that Emerson's crush at Harvard needs to be considered. This Crain does, pointing out that though it has been many years since Katz first collected some of Emerson's more provocative themes in his Gay American History (1976), scholars generally have yet to face the fact that "the feelings that came to Emerson during his crush on Gay provoked metaphors, ideas, and psychological compromises that became crucial to [Emerson's] mature philosophy and writing." Again, Crain does not say Emerson was homosexual but offers a far more important analysis:Homosexual eros is the motive and structuring metaphor of his work, and at times it is his explicit type. To most ears, this assertion may sound likely for Whitman but novel as a claim for Emerson. The expression of love for men was not Emerson's exclusive literary motive, and he probably never realized a love affair with a man. But this brand of eros was a crucial force in Emerson's life and writing.28Crain instances two moments in Emerson's career when this was the case, neither of which, interestingly, is his friendship with Thoreau.Emerson is not generally an entry in gay and lesbian literary anthologies. Thoreau, however, who never married (he did propose to a woman friend but was rejected) and wrote a famously homoerotic poem, "Sympathy"--always included in the gay canon--is often accorded a substantial entry in such books. In the end, though, the data amounts to as much or as little as one wants to make of it. Wrote Marylynne Diggs in The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage: "Biographers remain undecided about Thoreau'ssexuality ... . Some believe he was a 'repressed' homosexual and others that he was asexual ... . But his Journals, his essay 'Chastity and Sensuality,' and the long discourse on 'Friendship' in A Week are prolific expressions of the beauty, and the agony, of love between men."29 Some of his passions may indeed refer to Emerson, and there are certainly distinguished Thoreau scholars, such as Walter Harding, who argue for a gay reading of Thoreau's work, but the whole subject remains highly speculative; no authoritative consensus has yet emerged.Interestingly, however, Crain, though he does not ignore Thoreau, focuses his discussion of Emerson's sexuality instead on just two matters: the Gay crush of 1819-1821, which he explicates through a poem by Emerson, "Dedication," and his essay "Friendship," which Crain links as intimately to Emerson's relationship with Samuel Ward. In each case, Crain argues, Emerson transformed first Gay, then Ward, from flesh, as it were, to literature, "channel [ing] his feelings into a work of literature, imbuing that work with a special energy and asking it to justify his renunciation." Crain calls this "a technique of separating one's feelings for a man from the man himself, in order to free them for literary use":From [Plato's] Phaedrus, Emerson had learned that he could preserve the sense of energy and purpose that love for a man gave him if, rather than simply kill this love as forbidden and sinful, he cut the love from the man, like a flower from its roots. If he kept Martin Gay or Samuel Gray Ward at a fond distance, Emerson could enjoy the feelings they inspired and transform the feelings into a literary ecstasy, which was presented in his prose as if it were abstract.It was a technique of Emerson's that Herman Melville noticed in The Confidence Man, where, as was often the case, hierotomy, as Crain calls it, protected Emerson only too well. Concludes Crain: "It protected him from the men he thought he loved." Thus, "resolv[ing] his erotic attractions by Platonic abnegation" served very well the purposes of Emerson, "who instead of firing it," Crain perceives in a brilliant insight, "made it a principle to live his lie as a loaded gun."30Yet Emerson, in fact, compromised to this extent: "Dedication" he never sent to Gay; "Friendship" he did send to Ward. What a present!There is a sense in which Emerson, whom Oscar Wilde called "New England's Plato" (and, by extension, Richardson uses the term "American Plato"31), certainly equals and for moderns may surpass Plato in this matter. Observes Richardson: "In the end Emerson would prove more than the American Plato, since he would reject Plato's politics and struggle to reconcile Platonism with democratic idealism." Meanwhile, "there is nothing like Emerson's essay in the literature of friendship," Crain asserts. "Its closest relative is the work of Plato," who deals with "the question of eros in friendship."In fact, in Plato "the audience is never certain of the nature of the relationship discussed," Crain continues. "The same drama exists in Emerson's text." One wonders if it was as clear to Ward then as to Crain now that it was of Ward that Emerson wrote in "Friendship" when he reproduced in that essay a letter from his journals, which ends: "Thou art to me a delicious torment. Thine ever, or never." Certainly Ward can hardly have misunderstood Thoreau's "Sympathy," which Emerson is known to have sent him, nor Leaves of Grass, which, even before he found time to write back to Walt Whitman, Emerson forwarded to Samuel Ward.32Walt Whitman's StoryIN LATER YEARS, surrounded by haters of Whitman among both family and friends, Emerson grew quiet about him, excluding the poet from his widely read poetic anthology, Parnassus, and solacing thereby those who were dismayed to ever have found Harvard's great luminary and America's most notorious poet on the same page. Similarly, Whitman, feeling himself ill used by Emerson's friends and family (though never by Emerson himself), grew restive, like Thoreau, with the burdens of discipleship ("Who wants to be any man's mere follower?" Whitman scoffed). It was "Emerson-on-the-brain" that explained his saluting the great man as "Master" in the second edition of Leaves of Grass, Whitman protested.33 But Emerson hardly minded any of it, not just because as he grew old he lost his memory, but because if the master did remember, he remembered surely that his philosophy of Man Thinking (Thinking, not Learning) had not much use for the idea of disciples in the first place.Nor has any of this led posterity to misread either man's view of the other. "Nearly all scholars now agree," wrote Allen in The New Walt Whitman Handbook, "that Emerson himself was the one single greatest influence on Whitman during the years when he was planning and writing the first two or three editions of Leaves of Grass."34 Indeed, the Brooklyn poet had said too much over the years to ever unsay his debt. "I never get tired of talking to him," Whitman wrote once of Emerson. "I think everyone was fascinated by his personality." He wrote, too, of the "wonderful heart and soul of the man." Nor did he leave it at that. "Never a face more gifted with power to express, fascinate, maintain," Whitman wrote of his mentor, hero almost, whose mind he liked best of all, thinking it at one and the same time "penetrating and sweet." Not only Emerson got crushes. "They never could hold him; no province, no clique, no church," avowed Whitman. "I always go back to Emerson. He was the one man to do a particular job wholly on his own account." Even that was not enough. "Emerson never fails; he can't be rejected; even when he falls on strong ground he somehow eventuates a harvest." Finally, the accolade: "My ideas were simmering and simmering," Whitman told a friend, "and Emerson brought them to a boil."35Nor was Emerson shy, either, of singing Whitman's praises, though in more literary guise, famously describing Leaves of Grass as "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed." Nor of bluntly telling Whitman, as Richardson says, "You have a great pack howling at your heels always, Mr. Whitman; I hope you show them all a proper contempt; they deserve no more than your heels."36 A passage well worth parsing. After their 1860 dialogue on Boston Common, Emerson had wanted to introduce Whitman to the Saturday Club (as he did, in fact, to the Boston Athenaeum)37 but no less a triumvirate than Longfellow, Holmes Senior, and Lowell disparaged the idea, according to G. W. Allen, and disparaged it so intently Emerson desisted. Nor was that the worst of it. Thomas Bailey Aldrich, another Boston literary light then, now obscure, would call Whitman "a charlatan"; his poetry, Aldrich felt, belonged in a "quart of spirits in an anatomical museum!" And Lowell, not content with excluding Whitman from Boston's leading intellectual dining club, made a point of keeping all his students at Harvard from reading the poet. As Justin Kaplan writes, it was Lowell who was probably responsible for the fact that "Leaves of Grass was removed from the open shelves of [Harvard's] college library and kept under lock and key with other tabooed books."38
It cannot be overemphasized how far Emerson went way out on a limb for Whitman. Indeed, in a sense he stayed there--as Richardson attests: though Emerson said something once to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's brother about "Whitman's rudeness in printing the [personal, not public] letter of praise Emerson had sent in later editions of Leaves of Grass], Whitman's impulsiveness had no effect on Emerson's enthusiasm for his work." And this despite the fact that almost everyone in Boston and elsewhere "recoiled" from the strong sexuality in Whitman's work. "For years," adds Richardson, "Emerson was nearly alone in his admiration for Whitman."39 Indeed, Emerson surely sought to convince Whitman to pull back on the sexuality because he so admired the poet's work and worried Whitman would be destroyed in an era when--such was the virulence Whitman's treatment of sexuality aroused--even Emerson's most jubilant imprimaturs could not ensure his poetry the hearing it deserved. Polite society would just have none of it.Of Boston generally, Whitman had mostly only good to say, and though it is unclear what neighborhoods he lingered longest in--he was sighted downtown, on Beacon Hill, along the waterfront, and in both Cambridge and Somerville--his own notations and diary entries make it clear Harvard Yard was well known to him. In August 1881 he noted, "The horse-cars form one of the great institutions and puzzles of Boston. I ride in them every day--of course get in the open ones--go out to Harvard Square often." He even notes his route--"through Cambridge Street across the Back Bay"--and although the locales of his socializing were mostly downtown Bostonhotels and clubs and taverns, he specifically mentions "the fine old mansions of Cambridge" and also, specifically, "the College buildings,"40 in which, I do not doubt, the maverick poet on each of his sojourns in Boston came into contact with less grand but perhaps more welcoming circles than Emerson's persnickety Olympians. Among Boston's demimonde generally, and particularly the denizens of Harvard Yard where, despite Lowell's efforts, several students stood out as ardent supporters of the radical poet, quite a number of the poet's strongest supporters were to be found over the years. These included the novelist John Trowbridge, with whom Whitman is known to have spent a day at his house on Prospect Hill in Somerville, just beyond Cambridge, and, most notably, William D. O'Connor, who was to become the leader nationally of a "Whitman movement."41 At the time, in 1860, O'Connor was himself at work on a book for the Boston publishing house of Thayer and Eldridge, Whitman's own publishers for the 1860 Leaves of Grass and the reason Whitman was himself in town that year, composing and reading proof. ("We are young men," Thayer and Eldridge challenged Whitman; "try us.")Others in other years who would draw Whitman back to Boston included two Harvard students, Charles Sempers and William Sloane Kennedy. Sempers, an undergraduate, actually once wrote quite a fine essay for the Harvard Monthly on Whitman, an essay Whitman biographer Jerome Loving calls "one of the earliest attempts by someone outside Whitman's various circles of support to identify what is most admirable about Leaves of Grass."42 We also know, because Sempers once tried to get the poet to come and give a talk at Harvard by invoking the already famous philosopher and psychologist as host, that William James was not averse to Whitman. No surprise, really; James would quote one of Whitman's "fine and moving" poems, "To You," in the last chapter of his book Pragmatism. Kennedy, the other Harvard student, a friend of Sempers's at the Divinity School and later a Boston Herald reporter, would write a popular book, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman ,43 and help raise funds in 1886 to buy Whitman a summer cottage, the project of yet another small group of Whitmanic Bostonians led by the Irish-American poet John Boyle O'Reilly. By then Whitman had again made another visit to the New England capital, and O'Reilly, a leader of Boston's bohemia and a founder of several of its (once!) bohemian clubs, arranged with George Parsons Lathrop, Hawthorne's son-in-law, for Whitman to give a talk in 1881 at the St. Botolph Club. As the Botolph was not so stuffy in its brilliant early decades of bohemianism as the Saturday Club was, Whitman's appearance was a great success. Moreover, those attending included such literati as publisher James R. Osgood, who as a result of the evening shocked everyone in 1881 by proposing to issue yet another--the definitive--edition of Leaves of Grass.44For Whitman, for everyone, Osgood's decision was full of Harvard resonances. Osgood himself was a Bowdoin man. But James R. Osgood & Co.was the "in-house" successor (Houghton, Mifflin the outsider successor) to Ticknor & Fields, perhaps the greatest nineteenth-century American publisher, and one of Osgood's two partners when he approached Whitman was Thomas F. Ticknor, scion of the leading Boston family whose patriarch was Professor George Ticknor, one of Harvard's star professors, a founder of the Boston Public Library, the man sometimes called the father of American graduate education. There was no Harvard University Press then, and this was as close to Harvard's imprimatur as the era offered. It was also true, however, that in 1881 Osgood had just withdrawn from the first firm that succeeded Ticknor & Fields and was trying to reestablish himself. Thus the lure of Whitman, whose Leaves of Grass in its final, definitive edition (appendices aside) he published despite Whitman's refusal to expurgate anything.That spring all hell broke loose ...[and]--in the words of Edwin Haviland Miller--the censorship and the ensuing debate in the newspapers immortalized Boston's "dubious morality by making it a national joke." The label, "Banned in Boston," was dramatically bestowed [by the district attorney at the behest of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, predecessor to the infamous Watch and Ward Society] on one of America's national literary treasures, Leaves of Grass.45Osgood withdrew the book from sale; in 1882 it was reissued in Philadelphia. What had changed? Twenty years earlier it had been a Boston publisher that first dared to put out the "sex poems"! But it was always a tense business, Whitman's poetry, and Whitman himself was no stranger to equivocation. His own public attitude to the subject of homosexuality vacillated widely according to the position he found himself in--or, rather, was put in; witness, when pressed by John Addington Symonds, how boldly Whitman famously, and surely falsely, declared himself the father of six children! Andrew Delbanco, in a penetrating review in The New York Times of Loving's biography of Whitman, gives two little-known examples of Whitman's ways in this or that circumstance. On the one hand, in assembling reviews for advertisement in his books, he had, in Delbanco's words, "the prescience to grasp the first axiom of modern celebrity culture--that there is no such thing as bad publicity." Indeed, Whitman mixed in "just enough negative criticism" to titillate, "including one shocked review that alluded, discreetly in Latin, to his homosexuality: Peccatum illud horribile, inter Christianos non nominandum [that horrible sin not to be named among Christians]." On the other hand, in 1883, with the poet's close cooperation, Richard Maurice Bucke published a second laudatory biography in which Whitman himself made revisions, added passages of his own, and let stand Bucke's patently prudish description of the homoerotic "Calamus" poems, though, of course, these were named for a flower that resembles the shape of an erect penis.46How did Harvard Yard view such things? Kennedy, a lifelong and devoted admirer of Whitman, in his 1896 book about the poet argued vigorously against any suggestion Whitman was homosexual.47 Which, of course, may have been to protest too much. Especially interesting, however, somewhat on the other side, is the reaction from the Jameses--soon to move from Beacon Hill's Ashburton Place to their more famous abode on Quincy Street, overlooking Harvard Yard--and particularly from young Henry, to Whitman's Civil War poetry, Drum-Taps.48 Sheldon Novick notes the book was "making a stir in Boston" and that it was "much admired" by James's father and by Emerson. But young Henry "dismissed [it] almost with anger." Whitman, Novick adds, "was on a course that diverged widely from his own." In more than one way. The effect on him of Whitman's verses, wrote Henry, was of "the effort of an essentially prosaic mind to lift itself by a prolonged muscular strain, into poetry."49 All James's biographers have to address his initial reaction because in later years Whitman became virtually James's favorite American poet. And all react as one might expect. Kaplan suggests James for a long time tried "to pretend that this early review never existed."50 Leon Edel, James's preeminent biographer, wondered if it was "Whitman's homo-eroticism" that led James to make his peace with Whitman.51 Sheldon Novick gets it just right, telling very well the tale of how Edith Wharton recalled James reading Leaves of Grass by her fireplace in Lennox; "his voice filled the hushed room like an organ adagio." Adds Novick: "Wharton was delighted to discover that he thought Whitman, as she did, 'the greatest of American poets.' She was unaware of Henry James's hostile review of Drum-Taps years before and of the long process of sexual self-acceptance that had allowed yet another Harvard man to become a lover of Whitman."52Henry James's StoryHENRY JAMES FIRST appeared in Harvard Yard, in 1862, seventeen years old, part New Yorker, part New Englander, soon to be in the same equal parts an American (expatriate) Britisher. James enrolled as a law student at Harvard somewhat out of the blue, with no prior college level work at all to his credit. It was, however, "purely a pretext," journalist Ariel Swartley has written, because "what [James] wanted was the freedom to pursue the literary life," and after a period in a university dormitory young Henry settled into his own rooms in a picturesque old eighteenth-century house facing Winthrop Square, a small parklike enclave just off of Harvard Square and the adjoining college yard.53 This last was a place of some romance to James, a place he would describe as "brooding on sublime and exquisite heresies to come." The plainspoken Yankee elegance of its boxy brick precincts, the design by Charles Bulfinch (like Beacon Hill, which James also liked; "Oh, the wide benignity of brick," he wrote once of the hill, "the goodly, friendly, ruddy fronts, the felicity of scale, the solid seat of everything"),moved James. So did Winthrop Square. James reveled in its "dignified decay," and in the view from his sitting room. There was "a windowed alcove, large enough for a desk, that overlooked the Brighton hills," wrote Swartley, "and in this satisfyingly artistic setting, between languid strolls along the river, evening excursions to the brightly lit Boston theaters and the occasional class, James began to write." His first published work of criticism duly appeared: a theater review in The Boston Traveler. However, "a little more than a year after James entered Harvard," Swartley observed, "his parents moved [from Rhode Island] to Beacon Hill and James would never find Boston ... so mysterious or romantic again."It was an insightful remark. Though in later years James would set several novels and short stories in and around Boston and at the end of his life decide to be buried in Cambridge Cemetery with pretty much the same river view as his old rooms in Winthrop Square, during his lifetime he more and more resisted any identification with Boston generally and Harvard specifically, even as he increasingly obsessed (even at the height of his fame in London) about "superstitious terror" lest the Puritan capital stretch out "strange inevitable tentacles to draw me back and destroy me." It was the scrutiny of his family, of course--finally, of his brother William, whom Henry so greatly loved--that the "perpetual non-Bostonian," as Swartley calls Henry, so studiously tried to distance himself from. Indeed, Henry's much-dwelt-on negative reaction to most of late nineteenth-century Back Bay Boston, which he disliked as much as he liked eighteenth-century Beacon Hill and Harvard Yard, resonates with images not just of scrutiny, but of outright spying. Why was it that Back Bay's Marlborough Street, James wrote, "for imperturbable reasons of its own, used particularly to break my heart"? Perhaps it was because, being the area's most intimate and narrowest street, it was more true there than anywhere what James observed of Back Bay windows generally, that they seemed "almost terrible"; they were to James "like candid inevitable eyes"; their function, he wrote, to "watch each other, all hopelessly, for revelations, indiscretions ... or explosive breakages of the pane from within."54Actually, Isabella Gardner, also Julia Ward Howe (as we will observe later, in her invitation to Oscar Wilde especially), would oblige, so to speak. But James himself, in fact, might also have raised a few window shades--if, that is, any knew or suspected what Sheldon Novick, his most recent biographer, has surmised: that in the spring of 1865 young Henry performed his "first acts of love" within sight of, if not actually in, the Back Bay and not with a woman, but with a man, a fellow Harvard student, no less than young Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.55The liaison would seem improbable. All his life Holmes Jr. had the repute of a formidable flirt and notorious womanizer, and Novick admits his is only "a guess." But of James's homosexuality itself there remains little doubt. Without getting mired in the subject--or in the ruminations of variousscholars on James's suppressed anality56--perhaps the range of possibilities can be indicated by noting the work of one scholar, Wendy Graham. I think particularly of Graham's Henry James: Thwarted Love, in which she makes a specific claim. She aims, in The Gay and Lesbian Review's words, to "bridge our two perspectives of James as either coyly evasive or sexually tormented"57 by arguing that "for James fantasy really was the medium of excitement. Thwarting passion, he spun out pleasure in his fiction and letters, using narrative for flirtation and intellect for a strangely disembodied form of seduction. Sublimation, Graham suggests, gave James a productive career with erotic compensation for missed experience ... . The critic A. J. L. Busst has called this attitude 'cerebral lechery ...'"58 Well, then again if anyone is entitled to a secret life, of soul and/or body, it is surely James, whose subject is famously what can't be seen.59Drum-TapsWAR, HISTORICALLY, ALL too easy to see, is the most masculine of themes, very much at the heart of the poems by Whitman that so viscerally disturbed James at first and that he condemned so strongly; not surprising--although some still argue about Whitman's homosexuality, no one has ever argued about his masculinity.60Not that the poet was warlike. Even more than Emerson, Whitman believed in the full equality of the sexes. But whether in war or peacetime, it was men, not women, that Whitman was interested in. And the result, as the poet's sexuality came more and more to the fore, was, in Robert K. Martin's words, the "identification of the gay man with the masculine," in a distinctively American way. Whitman, declares Martin, "creat[ed] a figure of masculinity that could free him [the American] from association with the European aesthete [such as Wilde]."61To say this is, however, not altogether fair. Walter Pater, for instance, in his Plato and Platonism (1893), when he imagines (more as a British Victorian than an ancient Greek, but never mind) an Athenian visiting Lacedaemon and approving of the youths' cold baths, is extolling a more manly European tradition than the word aesthete usually connotes. And he does so quite tellingly when he writes: "The beauty of these most beautiful of all people was a male beauty, far remote from feminine tenderness; it had the expression of a certain ascêis in it, like unsweetened wine. In comparison with it, beauty of another type might seem to be wanting in edge or accent." 62 (I am reminded of Gore Vidal's observation in our own era that "a homosexualist like [Christopher] Isherwood cannot with any ease enjoy a satisfactory sexual relationship with a woman because he himself is so entirely masculine that the woman presents no challenge, no masculine hardness, no exciting agon ... . Isherwood is a good deal less 'feminine' (in thepre-women's lib sense of the word) than ... our own paralyzingly butch Ernest Hemingway."63)An emphasis on the masculine with homoerotic resonance is also by no means wanting in American literature before Whitman. As Martin observes, Herman Melville was in this respect quite like Whitman.Melville clearly disliked effeminate men; like Whitman his literary sexual ideal involves a love between two men, and not ... a man and a pseudo-woman. The effeminate man was the over-civilized man, who had adopted the values of civilization (i.e., woman) over the primitive (i.e., man). The ideal therefore becomes an androgyny that represents the integration of the values of civilization and the primitive, or of female and male. This androgyny should not be confused with effeminacy; for Melville, androgyny indicates self-sufficiency and wholeness, whereas effeminacy indicates weakness, indulgence and partialness.Whitman and Melville both, Martin declares, were interested in "dynamic masculinity, expressed and fulfilled in physical action." In Billy Budd: "Billy's graceful physique is endowed with enormous strength, active strength. While his beauty is a homosexual trap, his strength is a potential murder weapon."64But Whitman was in every sense a whole new world. Not only was he unequivocal in response to Emerson's call for a national, for a truly American poet--Whitman was a rebel "against a European heritage that was still strong seventy years after the [American R]evolution," but even so small a thing as his flowing not very closely trimmed beard signals his rugged masculinity. Confident and aggressive, Whitman's determination in the "Calamus" poems "To tell the secret of my nights and days / To celebrate the need of comrades" similarly expresses a clear homosexual identity. Though, as Martin points out, "the 'Calamus' poems lack much of the frank sexuality of 'Song of Myself,'" what is remarkable about them is that "they insist, not on homosexual acts, but on homosexual being." Which points to why Whitman took up the task of naming what had been unnamed and thus, in a sense, incomplete.65 Wrote Martin: "He was an American flaneur, sauntering around 'mast-hemm'd Manhattan' at about the same time that Baudelaire--who, not long after the first publication of Leaves of Grass, defined modernity as 'the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent'--was prowling Paris."66It is a view (we now tend to forget) relatively recent. Writes Gregory Bredbeck, "Whitman's democratic visions of 'calamitic love' inspired the work in large part of Edward Carpenter, the British sexual theorist, whose "concept of democratic male bonding derived from Whitman's writings." Although it may be enthusiastic to a degree to link homosexuality inevitably with the abolition of class and sexual hierarchies, some affinity does suggest itself.67 Thus today in The Social Organization of Gay Males, Joseph Harryand William B. DeVall conclude that among upper- and upper-middle-class (not working-class) American gays "rather than utilizing the conventional heterosexual marriage as a model for relationships, it seems that [gay] relationships are patterned after the nonexclusive conventional best friends model." In the bedroom, too: "Gay couples tended to exchange in reciprocal manner the various erotic positions," they report.68We have again got somewhat ahead of ourselves; but if we turn around, so to speak, and backtrack again to "manly attachment," our base in this chapter, Whitman's own hypermasculine image can easily be seen as an important historical foundation for the particularly American gay image Whitman "named." This can be seen, for instance, as a key vector in the Whitman "movement," if one can call it that. In a short biographical sketch intended as a rejoinder to a highly bigoted Secretary of the Interior who fired Whitman from his government clerkship over his authorship of Leaves of Grass, William D. O'Connor introduces Whitman as familiar to "thousands of people in New York, in Brooklyn, in Boston, in New Orleans, and latterly in Washington." He is, says O'Connor, "a man of striking masculine beauty--a poet--powerful and venerable in appearance; large, calm, superbly formed; oftenest clad in the careless, rough and always picturesque costume of the common people ... [his] head, majestic, large, Homeric, and set upon his strong shoulders with the grandeur of ancient sculpture." O'Connor's hero worship--there is nothing else to call it--spills over in every word. Even Whitman's clothes come into it, O'Connor extolling "the simplicity and purity of his dress, cheap and plain, but spotless, from snowy falling collar to burnished boot, and exhaling faint fragrance; the whole form surrounded with manliness, as with a nimbus, and breathing, in its perfect health and vigor, the august charm of the strong."69 Every other word in this description--"powerful," "large," "calm," "majestic," "strong"--tells readers that, in physique as in dress, this is no sissy, no dandy. Manly attachment is expressed by manly dress and deportment. Indeed, as G. W. Allen points out, "Almost everyone who knew Walt Whitman intimately was conquered by his magnetic presence, and there is no reason whatever to doubt the sincerity of O'Connor's enthusiastic description; nevertheless, we have here the first of the superman legends,"70 legends that lost nothing and, in fact, gained much in power: During and after the Civil War Whitman was linked more and more closely to Abraham Lincoln himself.One sees this already in O'Connor's affecting--though entirely undocumented and, indeed, highly unlikely--vignette of Lincoln's spying Whitman from a White House window, and remarking, "Well, he looks like a man."71 This almost surely apocryphal story gains weight, however, because it is known that for his part Lincoln appreciated Leaves of Grass, while in Whitman's case his hero worship of the president was hardly less fulsome than O'Connor's of Whitman. Writes G. W. Allen of Whitman in the year of his historic Boston Common dialogue:The 1860 edition [of Leaves of Grass] contains not only the record of the great spiritual crisis of Whitman's life--in which he seems to have contemplated suicide--but it also reveals the means by which he saved him-self ... . Though torn and racked by conflicts within, he was struggling for both a personal and a literary unity. Conflicts within himself would be conquered ... . For Whitman the great democratic fiasco of those years came to correspond to the fateful character of his love in the "Calamus" poems.What saved him, above all else, was the unifying effect of the Civil War--not only through his own patriotic and devoted services in the army hospitals but also because the war gave Whitman and the nation Abraham Lincoln.72Written after Lincoln's death, Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" is the most affecting of all the elegies of Western literature in the modern period. Whether the brow was Homeric or not, the words certainly were.College FriendsMASCULINITY--THE AESTHETIC of manliness, its style, so to speak--was in some sense what Harvard Yard in this era was all about. The College was a boys' school in many respects (though let us not be condescending; those boys would fight and win the Civil War). Many tales of the Yard then are extant, and one is of particular importance to us: the first in a series of Harvard novels that open windows onto the landscape of our inquiry.Entitled Two College Friends, this Civil War novel is also the earliest of a significant genre, the Harvard gay novel, and is in fact one of the earliest gay-themed novels in American literary history. First brought to my attention years ago by a bookdealer who wishes to remain anonymous--a reader of my book Boston Bohemia, which seems to have sparked his memory of the obscure novel that had always puzzled him--Two College Friends is the work of Fred W. Loring, and while hardly Whitmanic in literary quality it is overwhelmingly Whitmanic in content. Published in 1871, only one year after another book usually described as the first American "gay novel"--Bayard Taylor's Joseph and His Friend 73--the novel recounts a stormy but steadfast relationship between Ned and Tom, two undergraduates who fall in love at Harvard and enlist in the Union Army.74 The two young men and their unnamed older mentor, a professor, are first encountered in Harvard Yard before the war. And the tale is immediately unusual in the frankly homoerotic quality of the author's descriptions of the two younger men, and in the way they meet. Tom is described as having "soft, curly brown hair, deep blue eyes and dazzling complexion"; with Ned "the complexion is of olive, the eyes brown, the lips strangely cut [and he has] a curious grace andfascination of manner." They meet in their mentor's professorial study in Harvard Yard in a scene that is surely the closest thing to a classic gay pickup that 1871 could handle.Tom has sought out the professor's counsel, in the course of which both are rather taken aback by the unexpected arrival of Ned, who, having invited himself, belies rather a dull reputation by exhibiting a newfound wit and charm. Its stimulant, clearly, is Tom, who is soon "radiant with enjoyment." As for the professor, it is not long before he is uncorking his best Madeira.It is only at the conclusion of this jolly session that the older man, detaining Ned at the head of the stairs as Tom exits below, asks earnestly: "Why have you never shown me what you really are?" This rather coded query is understood at once by Ned: "It wasn't for you, sir," said Ned, with a certain frankness that was not discourteous. "It was for Tom, sir, though I like you and hope we shall be friends. But the moment I saw him come up here I felt that here was a chance to get acquainted."No persiflage there. This is very much a young man's book. Its author wrote it at the age of twenty-one.Though frank, Loring was not foolhardy. He disarmingly deflects any objection that Ned was "morbid on the subject of Tom" by making the former an orphan. Equally adroitly, and in more treacherous waters, the author has it, so to speak, both ways with the professor, a bachelor with whom Ned and Tom remain close throughout the book. On the one hand, the professor is affirmed as a man of "tender sympathy, ... exquisite delicacy of thought and life and [of] wit and scholarship." On the other hand, one of the young men allows that for all his affection for the older man, the professor's "liking for us boys is very queer to me.""What you really are," "morbid" young men, "very queer"--this is not a tough code to break. But modern readers should be wary of being lulled into reading our own values and attitudes into those of a century ago. Both Tom and Ned, for instance, plan to marry women and have children and take their place in the conventional society of their day.Though both Tom and Ned show a due appreciation of the possibilities offered by the opposite sex, any such interest expressed by one invariably provokes the other man to a furious jealousy, suggesting that much more is at issue. Ned, for instance, fancies one young lady sufficiently to produce some verses for her and send them to Harvard's magazine. But when they meet up and she inquires about the initials on a locket of Ned's, asking coyly, "Is she pretty?" Ned's reply is devastating to her amour propre: "'She!' he answered; "it isn't any girl; it's my chum Tom, you know."Nor do advancing maturity and the rigors of the battlefield--both men, who are depicted as ardent patriots, leave Harvard to enlist--alter this attitude. Two College Friends depicts no schoolboy crush. At one point during their time together in the army, Ned writes in his battlefield journal: "When this war is over, I suppose Tom will marry and forget me. I never will gonear his wife--I shall hate her. Now, that is a very silly thing for a lieutenant-colonel to write. I don't care; it is true."One possible reason for his outburst is that, just as the attitude toward heterosexual marriage of the author and his protagonists is distinctly at odds with that of most gays today, who would find such a union problematic for the homosexual, so too is what seems (at first glance, at least) their approach toward same-sex relationships, which somewhat mimic heterosexual ones of the era. Certainly Tom is depicted as noticeably more like a woman than Ned. Shown a photograph of Tom in drag for a student theatrical production while still at Harvard, the professor opines: "'What a mistake nature made about your sex, Tom.'" Later, in the army, a grizzled old soldier says to Ned of Tom--all but abandoning the code of the closet--"You care for him as you would for a gal, don't you?" He goes on to describe Tom as "'pootier than any gal I ever see anywhar.'"While it is Ned who courts Tom, making the first approach, and Ned who enlists first, expecting Tom to follow, the fact is that through the book both are always fighting for dominance, Tom declaring at one point that he "will not accept dictation" from his friend despite liking him more than anyone else. In fact, their relationship in this respect hardly accords with the Mediterranean same-sex model, in which one man invariably plays the aggressive and penetrating role, which is not seen as homosexual, while the other man, who is seen as such, plays the receptive and passive role.The extent of their belligerence is clear in this account from Ned's journal:Quarreled with Tom! How we have fought, to be sure! I don't know what this quarrel was about, but I know how it ended. We didn't speak for two days, and then came another attack from that restless creature, Stonewall Jackson ... . I didn't see Tom, but I knew he was near,--we always kept close together at such times;--still, if I had seen him, I wouldn't have spoken to him. My horse had been shot from under me, and I had cut open the head of the man who did it; it seems strange, now that it is all over, that I could do such a thing. Suddenly I saw the barrel of a rifle pointed at me. The face of the man who was pointing it peered from behind a tree with a malicious grin. I felt that death was near, and the feeling was not pleasant. However, the situation had an element of absurdity in it, and that made me laugh a little. The man who was going to kill me laughed too. I heard a little click, a report, and his gun went up, and he went down. Tom had shot him."Tom," said I, with some feeling, "you have saved my life.""There!" said he, triumphantly, "you spoke first."I saw that I had, and I was dreadfully provoked. However, he admitted that he was wrong; and so, under the circumstances, I decided that a reconciliation was advisable.Such stubborn masculinity on each side surely implies a rough equality and, upon closer consideration, it would seem that the comparisons of Tom to a woman are not meant to imply Tom is less masculine than Ned, but rather that he is more beautiful. Certainly Ned is pronounced "not as handsome" as Tom, and much is made throughout the book of "Tom's beauty." But nowhere is it suggested that either is effeminate.Two College Friends is rooted firmly in what is often called "muscular Christianity," to see the homosexual aspect of which one must recall that many if not most men then of whatever sexuality (clearly including Fred Loring) took the view--certainly the prevailing one today--that men who behaved in an unmanly way were problematic, and that it was gender-inappropriate behavior, not homosexuality as such, that affronted masculine values, heterosexual and homosexual. One can hardly avoid noticing that neither Tom nor Ned--despite a relationship open enough that the grizzled old soldier recognizes it at once as comparable to one between a man and a woman--seems, in today's terms, to have troubled unit cohesion at all. One is reminded instead of the battalions of lovers in the Theban army of ancient Greece.Nor should any of this in the American Civil War come as a surprise, for Ned's journal is striking literary corroboration of the historical findings of Yale professor Peter Gay, whose study of the real-life nineteenth-century diary of a Yale student discloseda capacious gift for erotic investment [in] men and women indiscriminately without undue self-laceratio Douglass Shand-Tucci’s previous books include The Art of Scandal, the bestselling biography of Isabella Steward Gardner; Boston Bohemia, and, most recently, Harvard University, with photographs by Richard Cheek and a foreword by Neil Rudenstine. The origin of The Crimson Letter is a speech Shand-Tucci, a 1972 graduate of Harvard College, gave to the Gay and Lesbian Caucus in 1997. He lives in Boston’s Back Bay.