About this book
This edition is the first to reproduce John Addington Symonds’s Memoirs in its entirety. It offers a panoramic view of middle-class Victorian life, shedding light upon sexual cultures and life histories too often hidden from history. Symonds (1840-93) began writing his Memoirs in 1889. It was, he confessed, ‘a foolish thing to do.’ Symonds was a respected man of letters, an historian, translator, essayist and poet; he was also married with children. But rather than unfold a simple tale of public and private achievement, the Memoirs record his struggle to reconcile his homosexuality with these professional and familial identities. His autobiography offers a confessional account of relationships beyond the accepted bounds of nineteenth-century social mores, presenting an alternative case study that contests the legal and medical authorities that would label his desires a crime or disease. Yet being so eloquent on matters of heterodox sexuality, the Memoirs were suppressed. The manuscript survives because Symonds recognised its import, however ‘foolish’: he instructed his literary executor to preserve the text, a duty ultimately discharged by placing the manuscript under embargo in the care of the London Library.