A perceptive, vivid and sometimes startling re-evaluation of homosexuality in the Victorian era.
Award-winning author Graham Robb explores the story and history of male and female homosexuality in the UK and US, uncovering elements from legislature, literature, medicine and day-to-day life that point to a particularly self-aware and sophisticated culture of Victorian homosexuality. Drawing on famous cases such as the Wilde trials, as well as a wide variety of previously neglected sources, Robb recreates this era with great insight, humour and aplomb, exploding modern myths and restoring the real and vibrant truth of homosexual love to today's readers: "Strangers" tells a tale that is in part familiar, and in part extremely surprising a story of oppression and secrecy, but also of unexpected tolerance and familiarity.
By investigating the obstacles presented to British homosexuality in the 19th century, and the means by which they were circumvented, Robb offers the reader a portrait of a vanished age. In part social history, in part an exploration of ideas, the book rehearses the physiological and psychological theories which were offered in explanation of the phenomenon of same-sex love. Illuminated by literature, law and pharmacological information, this volume is of interest to the specialist and non-specialist alike. Theory is illustrated by interview material or historical documentation including personal letters. Writers cited include, as well as the ubiquitous Oscar Wilde, William Beckford, Goethe, Gogol, Gide and Strindberg. Their work and lives illustrate the range of attitudes to homosexuality found in the 19th century. The final chapter, 'Heroes of Modern Life', takes us through to the 20th century, the theories of Foucault, and the beginning of the gay rights movement, ending with a nod to the gay detective in film and story. (Kirkus UK)