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A Problem in Modern Ethics

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By: (1840-1893)

“Society lies under the spell of ancient terrorism and coagulated errors. Science is either wilfully hypocritical or radically misinformed.”

John Addington Symonds struck many an heroic note in this courageous (albeit anonymously circulated) essay. He is a worthy Virgil guiding the reader through the Inferno of suffering which emerging medico-legal definitions of the sexually deviant were prepared to inflict on his century and on the one which followed. Symonds pleads for sane human values in a world of Urnings, Dionings, Urano-Dionings and Uraniasters – in short, the whole paraphernalia of Victorian taxonomies and undigested Darwinism which, superimposed on the “terrorism” of religion, labelled and to some extent created the specimen “homosexual.”

A discussion of the “manly love” poems of Walt Whitman leads the author to speculate on a better future for the criminalised mutual passions of men; yet he is obliged to defer the dream, for “the world cannot be invited to entertain it.” (Introduction by Martin Geeson)


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