The queer traffic in literature; or, reading anthologically.
When Edward Prime-Stevenson wrote "Out of the Sun" in 1913, he took for granted the ways in which sexuality as a social type was marked "by innermost literary sympathies." By his account, the genesis of this sense of an inner sympathy, which today goes by the name "homosexuality," was not (primarily) sexological or psychoanalytic but the effect of books. Books: "mostly small ones"; books accumulated and organized on shelves; books that "companioned" one "from youth up"; beautiful books with arabesque covers, translated into English from an astonishing range of languages and cultural contexts. This global library of books standing alongside each other, socializing together, enables the main character in "Out of the Sun," the old man Dayneford, to see in them the accumulation of his queer life, broken down into often contradictory pieces, with only a provisional coherence, across time, space, and book gutters (perhaps across other gutters, too). What Prime-Stevenson both exemplifies and describes in this passage is not just the representation of queer life in literature but the ways in which the traffic in literature (its circulation among subcultures as well as books' interactions with each other) produced sexual types. Dayneford, after all, "is companioned from youth up" by a library that makes him up. This "making-up" is an effect of literary circulation (across languages, national literatures, and cultures): in such a single-sentence-spanning library, books themselves come together (and stay apart) as if they were the members of a subculture.
This description of the books on Dayneford's shelves as a historical model of queer "making-up" has fascinated modern-day anthologists of the history of gay fiction. Mark Mitchell and David Leavitt's Pages Passed from Hand to Hand: The Hidden History of Homosexual Literature in English from 1748-1914 (1998) and James Gifford's Glances Backward: An Anthology of American Homosexual Writing, 1830-1920 (2007) both open with the same passage that appears at the start of this essay. For these editors, the passage exemplifies something fundamentally reflective of the history of gay male writing. Yet virtually no scholarly work takes up and explores the questions that this passage raises for the history of reading and writing queer literature beyond the work of canonical writers and for the ways it offers up a distinctly literary model of queer world-making at the level of both individual type and queer subculture. "The Queer Traffic in Literature" argues that one way of understanding what is literary about queer history is to read anthologically: to track the accumulated, interactive, side-by-side strains of other texts that make it possible to conceive of queer subjectivity itself as a simple abstraction (the type that Dayneford imagines literature has made him). The simple abstraction of homosexuality (as well as literary categories like "gay novel" that eventually ensued) disguises the complex literary routes and paths that made the abstraction visible as such--paradoxically, as a mode of interiority or a property of the self, whose process of emergence renders opaque the social life of its seemingly inevitable march to emergence. In Foucault's famous pronouncement, "The nineteenth-century homosexual became a personage, a past, a case history, and a childhood, in addition to being a type of life, a life form, and a morphology" (43). What we understand less well are the discrete ways that language comes to make this story. Foucault argues that "There was a steady proliferation of discourses concerned with sex--specific discourses, different from one another both by their form and by their object: a discursive ferment that gathered momentum from the eighteenth century onward" (18). And he points us in particular to "the multiplication of discourses concerning sex in the field of exercise of power itself: an institutional incitement to speak about it, and to do so more and more, a determination on the part of the agencies of power to hear it spoken about, and to cause it to speak through explicit articulation and endlessly accumulated detail" (18). Institutions and "agencies of power" incite the multiplication of sexual discourses, but they also act as the primary audience for it. What might it mean that this incitement to speak about sex and to accumulate details about the forms of intimacy it generates also produces new audiences for these new sexual "personages" and "life forms"?
"Proliferation," "gathered momentum," "multiplication of discourses," and "accumulated detail": these features of linguistic "ferment" find themselves literalized in the shelves of Dayneford's library, showcased at the level of the sentence in the side-by-side collection of titles and evocative of a model of historical reading somewhat out of sync with our own ways of reading the sexuality of the self. Dayneford and his bookshelves also have historical precursors, progenitors, and antecedents. As I will argue presently in this essay, the now minor, late nineteenth-century American writer Charles Warren Stoddard was one such example. But the larger point I propose to make is this: although we have grown accustomed to, and adept at, reading sexuality--particularly homosexuality--as the form of the unspoken, this mode of reading is itself the result of a plenitude, an accumulation of readings that resonate and form a textual pattern by the late nineteenth century. Reading anthologically is a way of understanding the conditions under which that pattern became legible as such. It (reading anthologically) is thus the object of this analysis as well as its methodology. It is the object of analysis to the extent that it highlights the tendency of late nineteenth-century queer male writers to read books and selections of books alongside each other, that is to highlight the evidence of this practice of reading in the form of the writing that it generates. Reading anthologically is, in turn, the methodology of this essay for the ways it demands a mode of reading the literary history of sexuality in terms of the kind of multiplicity that Foucault advocated. The paragraphs that follow constitute an attempt to read beyond the diagnosis of queer life in literature and toward the editorial, archival history of the conditions of its possibility.
It is worth taking seriously the generative quality of textual sociability metaphorized in the representation of Dayneford's books: the force, that is, of books' social relationships with other books as they move through cultural worlds and libraries--often through acts of rogue circulation. Many of the books in Dayneford's library may never have been intended as works of queer literature. But through performative acts of reading and collection, these works of literature on Dayneford's shelves frame and reframe each other as if, collectively, they participate in producing an emergent historical pattern. One product of anthological reading is arguably its tendency simultaneously to accumulate and condense detail such that it becomes legible as a type: homosexuality. But since other kinds of writing (like the novel or the long poem) may do just as much to make visible the personage or the case study of the homosexual, perhaps the most obvious evidence of the relevance of reading anthologically in the history of sexuality is the singular book object that has become a staple form of LGBTQ literature: the anthology itself.
From the Anthological to the Anthology (and Back Again)
Historically speaking, the anthological impulse--as a practice of reading and collecting--precedes the emergence of the queer anthology proper. But to access this history of reading anthologically, one is, paradoxically, obliged to start with anthologies themselves. The earliest queer anthologies, which emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, were populated by selections from many of the books on Dayneford's shelf. Prime-Stevenson's own privately printed, historical defense of "simisexualism" (his preferred term) found its fullest articulation in a book called The Intersexes (1908)--a rare find in even the best research libraries--that includes an entire section cataloguing simisexualism's literary history, which reads as an extension of Dayneford's library. (1) Preceding The Intersexes, however (and arguably even more popular), was Edward Carpenter's lolaus: An Anthology of Male Friendship (1902). Known among booksellers as "the bugger's bible," the book, according to Rictor Norton, went through two editions and numerous reprints. Although it claims to begin with "Friendship-Customs in the Pagan and Early World," this "early world" happens to begin in the present (or recent past, by 1902 standards), with excerpts from Melville's Typee and other travel writing from John Murray's Home and Colonial Library series. Carpenter's anthology ends with selections from Tennyson, Emerson, Thoreau, and, of course, Whitman. But in the face of ongoing efforts to catalogue the queer historical impulse to collect, what remains in place for literary scholars is a model of reading the queer male past in terms of the formal innovations of canonical authors like Walt Whitman, Henry James, Herman Melville, and Oscar Wilde--or in terms of a model of tradition, influence, or inheritance, whereby writers pay tribute to (or even seek to overcome) the status of those same authors.
That queer subcultures developed bodies of shared texts has long been known. As George Chauncey put it in his study of the history of queer communities in New York City, one effect of the impulse to collect and invent a tradition of writing was to create the ground for modern gay identity itself:
Having no access to a formal body of scholarship, gay men needed to invent--and constantly reinvent--a tradition on the basis of innumerable individual and idiosyncratic readings of texts ... By constructing historical traditions of their own, gay men defined themselves as a distinct community. By imagining they had collective roots in the past, they asserted a collective identity in the present. (Chauncey 283)
This sense of a literary tradition developed and generated through sub-cultural circuits is sustained by even the most recent anthologies that document the history of gay writing. Yet such acts of accumulation and performative reading on the development of queer writing feature minimally in literary criticism.
The dearth of attention paid to the anthological impulse in queer writing stems in part from the limited attention paid to the form of the anthology in general. Despite (maybe because of) its ubiquitous presence in university English classrooms, as Leah Price argues, "the profession that teaches anthologies has provided few theories of the genre" (2). "The modern use of 'reader' as a synonym for 'anthology,'" she continues, "defines anthologies not only as the product of writing, but as a trace of reading" (2). To the extent that anthologies take the form of (often excerpted) writings assembled out of context, anthologies of queer writing are no less the products of tendentious reading than any other kind of anthology. But the act of reading, whether tendentious or complete, is undoubtedly a necessary condition of the anthology's possibility. To the extent that the anthology inscribes and collates so as to circulate a particularized literary history, that act of inscription is essentially the result of reading anthologically--without, necessarily, reading with an eye to making an actual anthology.
It is the project of this essay to look backward from this moment of the anthology's emergence per se and to trace the queer traffic in American literary history in terms of the kind of anthological reading that makes possible (without actively anticipating) the rise of the queer anthology. (It turns out, as we shall see, that this mode of reading and its resultant inscriptions can also be said to make possible, in equally non-teleological ways, the writing of books now understood as early queer novels.) Queer or gay anthologies emerge in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, at a time when the "traditions," which Chauncey describes gay men as having invented, and perhaps the very idea of gay men themselves, were just being formed (homosexuality having been famously birthed in the latter part of the nineteenth century). Taking as a case study the writing of Charles Warren Stoddard, selections of whose work are often still anthologized, the pages that follow will make the case that reading anthologically is a useful way of understanding the literary history of homosexuality. This history of reading amounts to a different mode of self-making that is less a product of interiorized identifications and more a result of a literary "making up." Such a collated literary history of queer life also antedates novels and anthologies that seem to have emerged, Athena-like from the head of Zeus, as if in response to the coining of sexological or psychoanalytic categories. It is also, I suggest, an important way to track the queer traffic in literature as a set of surprising circuits and routes. An individual work of literature--whether one of Stoddard's stories, his book of stories, or his novel--operates like Dayneford's bookshelf: as a site of queer textual sociability and a multifaceted, even collective model of influence, which, I argue, becomes most visible and complex when Stoddard believes himself to be most engaged with acknowledging his debt to a single canonical author: Walt Whitman. In fact, the ways in which Stoddard's writing and his reputation exceed the influence and stature of the most accomplished writers in his orbit can tell us the most about the forms of literary queerness that he enacts and that take shape through him.
Dayneford Avant La Lettre: The Stoddard Archive and Its Dissed Contents
On 14 April 1905, the front page of the San Francisco Call featured a large image of two authors, drawn as if facing off against each other. The headline, however, refers to only one of them, as it urges readers, in large capital letters, to "WELCOME THE AUTHOR OF THE 'SOUTH SEA IDYLS'" The caption below the image reads "Two distinguished Americans who were honored guests last night at a dinner given by the Bohemian Club as a tribute to one of its founders, who returns to California to live again among the friends and scenes of his early manhood" (1). If either the Call or the Bohemian Club recognized Henry James as the superior writer, they were not letting on. (2)
Today it would be hard to imagine how Henry James could be overshadowed by Stoddard in a newspaper headline. Few know the story of Stoddard's itinerant but prolific writing life: that he published poems, fiction, essays, and even editions, the most widely known concerning primarily his travels to the South Seas, his life in California, and his conversion to Catholicism; that he was among the nucleus of writers to produce California's first significant literary magazine the Overland Monthly (widely credited with catapulting Bret Harte into local colour fame); that he socialized and corresponded with virtually every major writer of his day; that he was a professor of English at Notre Dame and at Catholic University in Washington; or that despite his connections, his widely regarded output, and his adventures, he died alone, unemployed, and penniless--while having anxiously collected and sutured together every of scrap of newsprint ever to bear his name. He may not have made much money through his writ ing, but it is fair to say that Charles Warren Stoddard has enjoyed a fairly fabulous life in print in a wide range of genres and venues and was favourably reviewed by critics no less prominent than William Dean Howells. (3)
What people do know of Stoddard, they likely know from anthologies. Examples of his fiction appear, often alongside James's, in just about every collection of gay or queer male writing published during the last one hundred years. Jonathan Ned Katz's Gay and Lesbian History in America features letters between Stoddard and Whitman. Editors of these anthologies comment on the importance of who he knew (basically everyone in the literary world of his time--and he was an avid autograph collector) and with whom he slept. They comment on his personal place in the cultural history of sexuality--as an early gay man, cruising the South Seas and participating in (sometimes resisting, sometimes inhabiting fully) established colonial or medical narrative conventions for describing homosexuality.
But scholars since, even the most sympathetically nelly ones, have not been kind to Stoddard. Twentieth-century critics pretty much all agree that Stoddard's writing fails to pass aesthetic muster. Carl Stroven, whose 1939 doctoral dissertation remains the most comprehensive account of Stoddard's work and life, declared that "He never acquired the knack of making fiction plausible, and when he wrote it ... the result was always bad" (320). John W. Crowley describes Stoddard as "a writer whose prose was as purple as his ink: a product of 'The Genteel Tradition' at its stupefying worst" (vii-viii). Robert Gale thought that he ultimately "became a self-indulging old sybarite who neglected his great literary talent" (5). Even his most devoted champion, Roger Austen, could not help but admit that "Stoddard's books deserve to remain in the background" (VLIV). These critics find Stoddard too sentimental, too verbose, and his fiction fundamentally implausible. The few more recent critics of Stoddard's work make no claims for its merits; they sidestep the business of his writing altogether. Like strangers passing a car wreck, promoters and critics alike display a distinctly horrified glee in dismissing his work. But no one can really explain why anyone should bother reading him or why he deserves to be in these anthologies at all.
Stoddard's persistent recovery and wholesale dismissal ironically indexes what is actually significant about the larger archive of Stoddard's work: his prescient, meta-archival sense of the roles collation, circulation, and archivation play in producing queer life as such. He is, in short, Dayneford avant la lettre. The Stoddard archive showcases brilliantly the status of literature and literary circulation for producing queer social communities--and even vocabularies of self-reference--within Gilded Age America. In fact, it is precisely because of what critics see as the derivative and sentimental nature of his work that Stoddard exemplifies so perfectly the queer traffic in nineteenth-century American letters.
Like Dayneford, Stoddard was "companioned from youth up" by a collection of "literary sympathies." As a young poet, he even sought out the opinions of the authors whose books could be found on his shelf or whose taste he admired: Lord Alfred Tennyson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Cardinal Newman, John Stuart Mill, Bayard Taylor, Bret Harte, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Oscar Wilde, Herman Melville, and Walt Whitman. (And these are only the ones who actually replied to Stoddard with assessments of his poems.4) He counted among his friends Mark Twain, who thought he was "a nice girl" (1:140). Among the most oft-cited influences for Stoddard were Melville and Whitman. But seeing Stoddard's admiration of these writers merely as confirmation of their genius and his own inadequacy misses the very way Stoddard's reading and writing situates their work in relationship to each other as well as a host of other writers, more and less queer than others. It is, in fact, admiration that drives Stoddard's habit of literary collecting, an admiration that tends to make its presence felt as sentimentalism in his writing.
My project here is neither to reclaim nor condemn the sentimentalism but to consider the effects of Stoddard's sentimental literary embraces and accumulations as textual and cultural forces. A closer look at Stoddard's engagements with some of the many writers whose work he read and accumulated--beginning with Whitman and Melville, but going far beyond them--allows us some insight into the worlds Stoddard saw and built through the textual accumulation and anthological reading that preceded his own acts of writing. At the level of individually produced pieces of writing, Stoddard's engagement with the two writers is both mimetic and generative: through both social and literary experiments with following and imitating Whitman and Melville, Stoddard's sense of self as well as his literary sensibilities begin to take the form of lyricized stranger-sociability in the prose form of travel writing. The model of influence at stake in Stoddard's writing plays itself out at the level of form as well as content and is central to understanding Stoddard's literary methodology: an anthological reading as a sentimental literary embrace, which in turn becomes the engine of queer literary production.
As Stoddard embraces and recirculates the writing of others, he in turn develops a metacommentary on the origins of his texts' sentimental form. These metatextual features of his writing--his intertextuality and his discursive reframings of others' writing--allow us to see the ways that Stoddard's form archives the conditions of its own production and documents the generative force of the queer traffic in literature. The mawkish embrace that we see in Stoddard's writing, and which his critics decried as purplish sentimentalism, is not just a structure of feeling but a methodology of literary production central to the literary history of sexuality in nineteenth-century American fiction. This mode of reading anthologically produces a form of writing, paradoxically, but it is a form of writing that we may well have forgotten how to read ourselves. Through the lens of Stoddard's epistolary exchange with Whitman, we can see that what may appear to be the clearest example of singular literary influence is refracted through and supplemented by Stoddard's impulse to collect and engage with the writing of others. Tracing Stoddard's anthological reading as the queer traffic in his writing, we begin to see the generative, cumulative force of this model of reading not only as a mode of self-making-up but a force of literary and discursive production. Anthological reading gives rise to anthological writing as a collection of literary antecedents, not unlike those in Dayneford's queerly social library, dances (sometimes awkwardly) across the pages of Stoddard's prose.
Autography, Apostrophe: Stoddard's Poetic Embraces
Charles Warren Stoddard first wrote to Walt Whitman on 8 February 1867, sending him some of his poems and hoping to engage one of his literary heroes in a sustained correspondence--or at least get his autograph.
Whitman didn't respond.
But Stoddard was persistent. Undeterred, a couple of years later Stoddard tried again. This time, he seemed to have thought more carefully about how to pitch himself to his favourite poet. He crafted his letter in such a way that Whitman's poetry might hail him into Whitman's sphere. Writing from Honolulu, Hawaii, in March 1869, Stoddard appealed to Whitman by recycling and reframing one of Whitman's brief lyric apostrophes, in order to articulate, by analogy, the relationship he imagined between himself and Whitman. Aiming both to enact and personalize the kind of stranger sociability that Whitman articulates in "To You," Stoddard wrote:
To Walt Whitman.
May I quote you a couplet from your Leaves of Grass? "Stranger! If you passing, meet me, and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?"
I am the stranger who, passing, desires to speak to you. Once before I have done so offering you a few feeble verses. I don't wonder why you did not reply to them. Now my voice is stronger. I ask--why will you not speak to me? (quoted in Katz 501)
The letter continues with a description of Stoddard's experiences and impressions acquired as a traveler in the South Seas. By implication, he extends Whitman's metaphor of the stranger into the following description, worth quoting at length since it becomes the earliest incarnation of Stoddard's story "A South Sea Idyl":
So fortunate as to be travelling in these very interesting Islands I have done wonders in my intercourse with these natives. For the first time I act as my nature prompts me. It would not answer in America, as a general principle, not even in California where men are tolerably bold. This is my mode of life.
At dusk I reach some village--a few grass huts by the sea or in some valley. The native villagers gather about me, for strangers are not common in these parts. I observe them closely.
Superb looking, many of them. Fine hairs, glorious eyes that question, observe and then trust or distrust with an infallible instinct. Proud defiant lips, a matchless physique, grace and freedom in every motion.
I mark one, a lad of eighteen or twenty years, who is regarding me. I call him to me, ask his name, giving mine in return. He speaks it over and over, manipulating my body unconsciously, as it were, with bountiful and unconstrained love. I go to his grass house, eat with him his simple food, sleep with him upon his mats, and at night sometimes waken to find him watching me with earnest patient looks, his arm over my breast and around me. In the morning he hates to have me go. I hate as much to leave him. Over and over I think of him as I travel: he doubtless recalls me sometimes, perhaps wishes me back with him. We were known to one another perhaps twelve hours. Yet I cannot forget him. Everything that pertains to him now interests me. (quoted in Katz 501-02)
On first reading, it would seem that Stoddard continues to appropriate Whitman's textual strategies so as to reflect Whitman back to himself. Stoddard adopts Whitman's tone of prosaic description in Leaves of Grass (even repeating references to "grass huts" and the "grass house"). It could even be said that Stoddard at once assumes the position of Whitman's lyric speaker (as he "mark[s] one, a lad of eighteen or twenty years, who is regarding me").
But this very act of appropriation also displaces Whitman--and, eventually, the agency of the lyric "I" altogether--at precisely the moment at which Stoddard embraces him so cravenly. Stoddard may be the "I" who marks the lad, but the agency he attributes to Whitman (as author and as lyric speaker) he does not claim for himself: the lad plays the role of sexual subject, cruising Stoddard and "manipulating [his] body unconsciously ... with bountiful and unconstrained love." And in adapting Whitman's poetic form to organize his own sexual experience in terms of a lyricized stranger-sociability, Stoddard also multiplies it. Both Whitman and the lad are strangers to Stoddard, one being the audience of the letter (whom Stoddard has never met), the other, the represented stranger within the letter. What Whitman and the lad have in common is the sense that they are reading Stoddard. Like Dayneford, Stoddard himself is "made up" or hailed by the books and people he has read.
Stoddard's letter further displaces Whitman (under the guise of making him central) by adapting a skeletal poetic frame into a fleshed-out prose description. The letter to Whitman adds something that was never there in the poem: contextual detail and a narrative setting (replete with plot) that was not part of Whitman's poem. "To a Stranger" is one of Whitman's simplest lyrics--a mere two lines long. Stoddard treats it as a frame on which he can hang his details and, eventually, grow his story as an event that unfolds across time and in a very specific space. Whitman's stranger could, perhaps, be anyone, but Stoddard's stranger could not. Whitman's "you" is abstract: Stoddard's "you" is, first, Whitman and, second, in the description of his encounter, a specific "lad of eighteen or twenty years."
Reading Stoddard's writing anthologically allows us to see the ways in which other books and writers that he embraced inform the writing that fleshes out Whitman's skeleton. It can be argued, for instance, that he borrows the setting from Melville. Around the same time that Stoddard first wrote to Whitman, he also wrote to Melville for his autograph, claiming that he went to Hawaii and sought traces of Melville there (and enclosing a copy of his--Stoddard's--short poem "Cherries and Grapes"). Melville's response was brief, but polite: "I have read with much pleasure the printed Verses you sent me, and, among others, was quite struck with the little effusion, 'Cherries and Grapes.' I do not wonder that you found no traces of me at the Hawaiian Islands" (Letters 227-28; quoted in Austen 33n10). (5) In another of Stoddard's South-Sea Idyls, his narrator is lamenting the decimation of South Seas native life as an effect of Melville's storytelling. The character, trying to apprehend the Typee valley from afar, observes, "I happened to know something about the place ... for Herman Melville has plucked out the heart of its mystery, and beautiful and barbarous Typee lies naked and forsaken" (302). Given Stoddard's anxiousness to correspond with Melville (as he would later with Whitman) as well as his later blaming of Melville's readers for leaving Typee "naked and forsaken," we begin to see a picture of how accustomed Stoddard had grown not only to writing and seeing the world through Melville's eyes, (6) but of assuming that other writers would imitate Melville's travels as he had. If we take seriously Stoddard's claim (articulated in a later story) that much of what his characters know about South Seas island life is learned from Melville, we begin to see that at the moment when Stoddard is most formally (apostrophically) Whitmanian he is at least equal parts Melvillean.
As obvious as these influences might have been to Stoddard, neither Whitman nor Melville would likely have recognized their respective reflection in Stoddard's writing. After all, each only politely tolerated him. (And Stoddard's voluminous correspondence with other editorial and cultural figures suggests they were not the only ones--his letters offer incredible insight into the queerness of literary networks in late nineteenth-century America.) But taking only the complicating trace of Melville in Stoddard's writing, we begin to see how fleshing out the skeleton of Whitman's lyric apostrophe is ultimately not a straightforward project for Stoddard.
Melville and Whitman are but two of the tracks we can see in this short letter if we read Stoddard's writing (and his tendency to understand himself through other writing) anthologically. The traffic of reading that leaves its material trace on Stoddard's writing is denser. Stoddard showcases this traffic, sometimes quite diffusely, through, say, his use of pastoral conventions like the locus amoenus and the retreat from society but at other times in ways that can be linked to specific texts. Through Stoddard's accounts of the importance of his own reading, we can see, even within this one short letter to Whitman, the tracks of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Richard Henry Dana's Two Years Before the Mast, and Bayard Taylor's "To a Persian Boy: In the Bazaar at Smyrna."
On his first trip on a boat, as a young boy sailing with his family from the American east coast around the horn to California, Stoddard carried two books with him. One of these was, he reports later, "a pocket copy of 'Robinson Crusoe,' upon the fly-leaf of which was scrawled, in an untutored hand, 'Charley from Freddy,'--this Freddy was my juvenile chum" (In the Footprints of the Padres 2). He explains, "Frequently I have thought that the reading of this charming book may have been the predominating influence in the development of my taste and temper; for it was while I was absorbed in the exquisitely pathetic story of Robinson Crusoe that the first island I ever saw dawned upon my enchanted vision" (2-3). Thereafter, he imagines his own island encounters as if he were Crusoe himself, even keeping his own kind of diary. In these descriptions of island relations to prospective chums, Stoddard imagines himself less a Whitman than a Crusoe. Later, as Stoddard was reading Two Years Before the Mast, his avatar became Henry Richard Dana. (He eventually published an edition of Dana's book in 1899, with a scholarly introduction.)
And to add yet another item to the bookshelf refracted through Stoddard's description of his "lad" in the Whitman correspondence, we might turn to Bayard Taylor's "To A Persian Boy: In the Bazaar at Smyrna" (from Poems of Place, 1851). The poem's speaker recounts the force of the Persian boy's eyes and lashes, "from under which ... shone on me / the rich voluptuous soul of Eastern land, / Impassioned, tender, calm, serenely sad" (9-11). A similar sense of being taken over indexes the located sensibility of Stoddard's work and marks the relationship between the narrator of "A South Sea Idyl" and his lad who "is regarding me . manipulating my body unconsciously." In later incarnations, we will see that the lad comes to emerge from the landscape as if he himself were a feature of the land.
Whitman's lyric, socialized into prose, becomes the vessel through which an accumulation of Stoddard's reading comes to life in condensed form. But the tracks through this correspondence are not visible without an account of Stoddard's history of reading and his status as something of a literary hoarder. Seen in light of the textual engagements that precede Stoddard's letter exchange with Whitman, we can also begin to understand what Whitman has made possible for Stoddard as well as the conditions of anthological reading that help make queer readings and adaptations of Whitman's work possible. Whitman's influence in this passage is as diffuse as it is central. "To You" has acquired a setting and specific details. It can be seen to resonate with Stoddard's history of experimental self-representation through the writing of others. The skeleton of stranger sociability is shrouded with descriptive language that idealizes the environment, all the while displaying (without consciously showcasing) the interconnectedness of social and literary circulation in Stoddard's writing. What we get is a glimpse of the effects, in writing, of the performative character of Stoddard's reading and collecting and of the centrality of this reading and collecting to the emergence of queer social communities and vocabularies of self-understanding (or "making up") that Dayneford's library shelves showcase.
Nor is that fact lost on Stoddard, who, in continuing to evolve this practice further, even develops a metacommentary on it. Later in his letter to Whitman, he claims that the spirit in which he reads Whitman ultimately makes his written description of the lad possible, as if Whitman's poem has been reading, even writing him as he is reading it:
You will easily imagine, my dear sir, how delightful I find this life. I read your Poems with a new spirit, to understand them as few may be able to. And I wish more than ever that I might possess a few lines from your pen. I want your personal magnetism to quicken mine. How else shall I have it? Do write me a few lines for they will be of immense value to me. I wish it were possible to get your photograph. The small lithograph I have of you is not wholly satisfactory. But I would not ask so much of you. Only a page with your name and mine as you write it. Is this too much? (502)
He counts himself among a select group of readers who can read Whitman's work with a knowing wink to a speaker who, they believe, acknowledges them. The "new spirit" with which Stoddard claims to read Whitman is (later) recognized in the writing of John Addington Symonds, Edward Carpenter, and even D. H. Lawrence--and has been well documented in the scholarly work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Michael Moon, Betsy Erkkila, Jerome Loving, Michael Robertson, and others. These writers and scholars point to the ways in which, as Sedgwick puts it, Whitman was something of an "English (far more than as an American) prophet for the nineteenth century" (204).
There's no denying that, as Michael Warner points out, "The attention to the body and to sex that Whitman achieved ... represents a watershed in modern culture" (xxxi) and that many continue to see themselves embodied in his work. But the cult of personality that continues to adhere to Whitman and other canonical queer writers has obscured the conditions of their own emergence as literary celebrities within already existing literary subcultures. In the context of the Whitmania that emerges in the latter part of the nineteenth century, Stoddard is an early adopter. The writers most often cited as evidence of the queer community that forms through reading Whitman write much later than Stoddard. (Symonds is the best example: although he first read and appreciated Whitman in 1865, he didn't write his famous letter to the poet until 1890.) Stoddard had long since completed his correspondence with Whitman by this point. In fact, as Katz points out, Stoddard was finished with his South Sea travel adventures by 1874 (and had moved on to Italian lovers and locales) (203). So, in one sense, Stoddard may be unique for the ways he produces some of the earliest documentation of the performative force of reading Whitman.
But if the Stoddard case creates an earlier example of a queer-Whitman phenomenon that has already been diagnosed as emerging later, Stoddard's reading and writing practices do more than shore up an argument for Whitman's exceptionalism. There is a broader subcultural context of literary circulation at play here that creates the conditions in which Whitman's exceptionalism makes sense. Like Carpenter and Prime-Stevenson after him, Stoddard reads Whitman alongside--and through--his own writing practice and refracts Whitman's influence, in turn, through the writing of others. In so doing, he both exemplifies and diffuses (perhaps even mutes, as a result) a seemingly straightforward model of influence that his correspondence with Whitman would, on the surface, suggest. To recognize Whitman's aesthetic exceptionalism is to see him, as Stoddard does, within a constellation of other writers (like Melville and Taylor), whose shared ghostly presence in Stoddard's writing amplifies and expands the literary effect of Whitman.
In the context of Stoddard's anthological reading and writing practices, the generative force of reading Whitman stems as much from his membership in a library of other representations as it does from Whitman's uniqueness or experimental poetics. It is not, after all, Whitman's trademark long lines or lyric catalogues that attract Stoddard to his poetry but his adhesiveness. Stoddard is drawn to the content of Whitman's writing--a content that he has learned to detect through reading a history of pages passed from hand to hand. And it is through Whitman's content more than his form that Stoddard might be said to engage in a queerly formal literary experiment--one rendered practically invisible by the fact that Stoddard's anthological reading and writing practices are ultimately more important to the queerness of his own form than the influence of Whitman. As Stoddard develops what he would come to call his "proze idyl," collecting them as a series of linked stories (and later writing a novel that loosely follows the same formal principle), the books he produces come to resemble more the anthologies of Carpenter and Prime-Stevenson than the poetry of Whitman.
Fermenting the "Proze Idyl": From Stoddard to Whitman, The Sequel
In the ensuing correspondence between Whitman and Stoddard, the relationship of the environment of the South Seas' racialized sexual expression (attributed to Melville) and its formal tone begins to take further shape. Perhaps both flattered and intrigued, Whitman finally did reply to Stoddard, albeit briefly and with epistolary restraint: the letter, in other words, was short but sweet.7 It would be another year before Whitman would hear from Stoddard again, but in the meantime the scene Stoddard described to Whitman in his letter--of meeting the eighteen-year-old boy in Hawaii--had flourished into Stoddard's "A South Sea Idyl," first published in the Overland Monthly, September 1869 (and later, again, in the South-Sea Idyls collection). The encounter with the "lad" grew into the following description:
Fate, or the Doctor, or something else, brought me first to this loveliest of valleys, so shut out from everything else but itself, that there were no temptations which might not be satisfied. Well! Here, as I was looking about at the singular loveliness of the place--you know this was my first glimpse of it; its abrupt walls, hung with tapestries of fern and clambering convolvulus; at one end two exquisite water-falls, rivaling one another in whiteness and airiness--at the other the sea, the real South Sea, breaking and foaming over a genuine reef, even rippling the placid current of the river, that slipped quietly down to its embracing tide from the deep basins at these water-falls--right in the midst of all this, before I had been ten minutes in the valley, I saw a straw hat, bound with wreaths of fern and maile; under it a snow-white garment, rather short all around, low in the neck, and with no sleeves whatever.
There was no sex to that garment; it was the spontaneous offspring of a scant material and a large necessity. I'd seen plenty of that sort of thing, but never upon a model like this, so entirely tropical--almost Oriental. As this singular phenomenon made directly for me, and having come within reach, there stopped and stated, I asked its name, using one of my seven stock phrases for the purpose; I found it was called Kana-ana. Down it went into my note-book; for I knew I was to have an experience with this young scion of a race of chiefs. Sure enough, I have had it. He continued to regard me steadily without embarrassment. He seated himself before me; I felt myself at the mercy of one whose calm analysis was questioning every motive of my soul. This sage inquirer was, perhaps sixteen years old. His eye was so earnest and so honest, I could return his look. I saw a round, full, rather girlish face; lips ripe and expressive--not quite so sensual as those of most of his race; not a bad nose by any means; eyes perfectly glorious--regular almonds--with the mythical lashes "that sweep," etc, etc. The smile which presently transfigured his face was of a nature that flatters you into submission against your will.
Having weighed me in his balance--and you may be sure his instincts didn't cheat him (they don't do that sort of thing)--he placed his two hands on my two knees, and declared "I was his best friend, as he was mine; I must come at once to his house, and there live always with him." What could I do but go? (South-Sea Idyls 66-67)
This passage is remarkable for the ways it further mutes the "I" and locates the agency of desire elsewhere. The narrator's sentences regularly displace him from the position of grammatical subject as he foregrounds the external origins of his own desire and actions. It is "Fate or the doctor or something else" that has brought him here, and we find him hailed as much by the environment he is describing and apprehending. Consider as well the way the lad/lover is introduced. He is actually a feature of the landscape, presented to us, through a structure of synecdoche, as a series of parts framed by assumptions about the context in which those parts appear. The lad appears first as a set of clothes, "a straw hat, bound with wreaths of fern and maile; under it a snow-white garment, rather short all around, low in the neck, with no sleeves whatsoever" (66). And although he is marked by the purity associated with his "snow-white garment," the narrator understands his attraction to the boy not only as an attraction to purity but also as an attraction to temptation: after all, "this loveliest of valleys, [was] so shut out from every thing but itself, that there were no temptations which might not be satisfied" (20).
The description and displacement that structure the sexual encounter further obfuscate the origins of agency at precisely the moment at which agency would appear to be foregrounded. Most of the wooing appears to be the boy's shameless work: ("He continued to regard me steadily, without embarrassment"). But the lad's agency itself has been licensed by the landscape out of which he has appeared. And it is description itself, as it shifts almost imperceptibly from the landscape to the lad, that transforms him into an object of desire: "His eye was so earnest and so honest"; his "round, full, rather girlish face; lips ripe and expressive" with "not a bad nose," "eyes perfectly glorious--regular almonds--with the mythical lashes," and "the smile which presently transfigured his face." The power the boy has is very much like the power of landscape: it is "nature that flatters you into submission against your will" In the context of description, conscious decision seems to be lost in the verdure.
Nor is the scene without its recognition of the ways writing itself anticipates the encounter. Even before we get to the description of Kana-ana, we are told that the first thing the narrator does is write Kana-ana's name in his notebook--an action that precedes the smile and the steady gaze from Kana-ana: "Down [the name] went into my note-book; for I knew I was to have an experience with this young scion of a race of chiefs. Sure enough, I have had it." Only after Kana-ana's name is written in the notebook does he pursue the narrator: the act of writing seems to have been a decisive move on his part, but the narrator cannot quite decide who makes the decisive moves here. At the sentence level, his own capacity for observation--the ostensible origins of description--are not completely within his power. The description of the erotic encounter blends so easily into the romanticized description of the environment that the sublimity of the natural world seems to dissolve the ownership of desire into a feature of the body and infuse into the writing itself.
This described setting that is the mise en scene for the characters therein is the site of an accumulated textual consciousness. To write about the mode of life Stoddard so cherishes in the South Seas is to put in play, with various degrees of authorial consciousness, the range of associations that have accrued to description within the South Seas. The mass of such literary accumulations allows Stoddard to condense what has been more sparsely sprinkled throughout texts of other writers into a single encounter. Through the concrete description of details it offers, the location paradoxically becomes generic. The environment of Stoddard's story is no longer specified as Hawaii (as it was in Stoddard's earlier letter to Whitman). It has become a generic South Seas island environment, typifying the kind of sociability it showcases all the more for the ways its accumulation of detail amounts also to a condensation of detail where we no longer even need a specific place name. The resulting story is not (or not any longer) an imitation of Whitman but a departure, at least formally, from the poet whose epistolary embrace Stoddard sought--a seeking that gave rise (in part) to the text itself (a nicely counterintuitive example of what Stoddard's "sentimentalism" actually accomplishes).
If Stoddard recognized that contradiction, he didn't let on. Upon his return to San Francisco from his South Seas excursion early in 1870, he could not resist sending Whitman the Overland Monthly version of the "South Sea Idyl." And it is in this letter to Whitman that he coins the terms "proze idyl" to characterize the piece. The story arrived with the following enclosure, remarkable for the ways it misreads and distorts Whitman's influence:
To Walt Whitman
In the name of calamus listen to me! before me hangs you beautiful photograph, twice precious, since it is your gift to me. Near at hand lies your beloved volume and with it the Notes of Mr. Burroughs.
May I not thank you for your picture and your letter? May I not tell you over and over that where I go you go with me, in poem and picture and the little volume of notes also, for I read and reread trying to see you in the flesh as I so long to see you!
I wrote you last from the Sandwich Islands. I shall before long be even further from you than ever, for I think of sailing towards Tahiti in about five weeks. I know there is but one hope for me. I must get in amongst people who are not afraid of instincts and who scorn hypocrisy. I am numbed with the frigid manners of the Christians; barbarism has given me the fullest joy of my life and I long to return to it and be satisfied. May I not send you a proze idyl wherein I confess how dear it is to me? There is much truth in it and I am praying that you may like it a little. If I could only know that it has pleased you I should bless my stars fervently....
You say you "don't write many letters." O, if you would only reply to this within the month! I could then go to the South Seas feeling sure of your friendship and I should try to live the real life there for your sake as well as for my own. Forgive me if I have worried you: I will be silent and thoughtful in future, but in any case know, dear friend, that I am grateful for your indulgence.
Charles Warren Stoddard (quoted in Katz 502)
By hailing Whitman "in the name of Calamus," he unwittingly (and thus ironically), marks his own divergence from Whitman. Stoddard's Calamus is not Whitman's. For Stoddard the "name of Calamus" is transportable, whereas for Whitman it is distinctly American. The gap between Whitman's context and Stoddard's also plays itself out in Stoddard's assumption that Whitman needs someone to live life for his sake because, he assumes, Whitman cannot live the life he might want in America. Whitman may indeed go wherever Stoddard goes in both spirit and text, but Stoddard is, in part, also rejecting something in Whitman in order to escape what is at the heart of Whitman's poetry: American life. In the South Seas, he finds people who are less afraid of "instincts" and less prone to "hypocrisy." But Stoddard's own sense of utopianism clouds his very reading of Whitman and leads him to construct a false homology. Whitman does not shrink from what Stoddard sees as the obsequiousness of American life; its contradictions and hypocrisies are a source of Whitman's creative energy and connection. For Stoddard, these contradictions and hypocrisies are an albatross.
Nor is this paradox of Stoddard lost on Whitman, who is quick to see Stoddard's limitations as a reader and the ways his preoccupations translate into particular forms of description. Stoddard's nature, according to Whitman, corresponds with a particular mode of expression--"simple," "direct," and "naive"--itself, (8) we assume, connected to what Whitman would describe in his next response to Stoddard as the "extravagant sentimentalism" that America would prevent:
I have just reread the sweet story all over, & find it indeed soothing & nourishing after its kind, like the atmosphere. As to you, I do not of course object to your emotional & adhesive nature, & the outlet thereof, but warmly approve them--but do you know (perhaps you do), how the hard, pungent, gritty, worldly experiences & qualities in American practical life also serve? How they prevent extravagant sentimentalism? & how they are not without their own great value & even joy?
It arises in my mind as I write, to say something of that kind to you--
I am not a little comforted when I learn that the young men dwell in thought upon me & my utterances--as you do--& I frankly send you my love--& I hope that we shall one day meet--
--I wish to hear from you always,
Walt Whitman (quoted in Katz 507-08)
He is of a simple and direct naive nature--never seemed to fit in very well with things here: many of the finest spirits don't--seem born for another planet--seem to have got here by mistake: they are not too bad--not: they are too good: they take their stand on a plane higher than the average practice. You would think they would be respected for that, but they are not: they are almost universally agreed to be fools--they are derided rather than reverenced. (Walt Whitman in Camden 3, 444-45).
Whitman describes and acknowledges a mode of queer being and writing that is diametrically opposed to the more dominant forms of queer writing that have been associated with writers like Oscar Wilde and Henry James at around the same time. And even here, the term "queer" operates as a fudgy adjective that none of these writers (Stoddard, Whitman, Wilde, or James) would likely have used to describe their work--although it comes closest to capturing the indeterminacy operating in the Stoddard-Whitman correspondence, especially compared with the more identitarian vocabularies we have at our disposal for describing such modes of sexual sociability today. Whitman makes a gentle but firm distinction between Stoddard's predilections and his own preference for the "pungent, gritty, worldly experiences & qualities in American practical life"--all the while encouraging Stoddard to continue reading his work in that "new spirit" to which Stoddard referred in the earlier letter. Whatever Whitman's qualms over Stoddard's sentimental, direct, or naive expression might be, he nonetheless sees something worth encouraging in this new spirit of reading. (Neither Stoddard nor Whitman, one assumes, has read Schiller's influential essay opposing the naive and the sentimental.)
Even if the tension Whitman identifies between Stoddard's sentimentalism and his own gritty practicality is somewhat lost on Stoddard, that tension no doubt fertilizes the growth of Stoddard's hybrid "proze idyl." That process of intersubjective literary production is not one we tend to associate with Whitman's sui generis status as self-made poet. (Then again, for perhaps the same reasons that we like to see canonical authors as somehow unilaterally authorizing queer life, we know relatively little about Whitman's own reading habits.) This letter that began with the skeletal structure of a modest lyric "To You" reveals to us the germ of a process of literary circulation that gives rise to the structure that will define Stoddard's long prose works: a structure marked by exchange (of text objects like letters, poems, and stories, of images and autographs, and of world views).
From Reading to Writing Anthologically
The story that first took shape in Stoddard's letter to Whitman and then grew into "A South Sea Idyl" would grow again, later, into Stoddard's novella-like, three-part story that came to be titled "Chumming with a Savage"--an episodic tale within a book that is itself a collection of episodic tales. The excerpts discussed above partly comprise Part One; Part Two shows us Kana-ana's travels to America (which makes him miserable); and the final Part Three is the narrator's return to Kana-ana's home island, only to find his beloved chum has died. The resulting episodic structure is significant not just because it multiplies the model of stranger sociability that Stoddard sees in Whitman and adapts to contexts represented in the travel writing of others but also because it amplifies at a formal level the piecemeal, "fragmented" anthological nature of reading and literary accumulation that define Stoddard's long prose writing in both his collection of stories, South-Sea Idyls, and his novel, For the Pleasure of His Company.
Like "Chumming With a Savage," For the Pleasure of His Company also follows this three-part structure that showcases the life of a struggling writer named Paul Clitheroe as if it were a series of only loosely linked episodes and relationships, not unlike the nameless main characters of the linked tales in South-Sea Idyls. Arguably the earliest queer novel to be set in San Francisco, the book charts Clitheroe's turns at writing, acting, and love in the Bay Area. Success at both love and writing ultimately eludes Paul, and the ending sees his escape from America into the arms of three naked South Sea Islanders, with whom he sails away. Considered autobiographical by both Stoddard and its readers, the text that finally emerged was reprinted in 1987 by the the Gay Sunshine Press, "the first relatively open American novel with homosexual themes" (back cover).
Both the South-Sea Idyls and For the Pleasure of His Company prefigure the anthological form of later collections and are the result of the kind of anthological reading that can be attributed to both Dayneford and Stoddard. Paul Clitheroe could just as easily be writing about the nameless narrators of Stoddard's "proze idyls" or Edward Prime-Stevenson's Dayneford when he makes the metafictional claim that if he were to write a novel, he would "write a story without its pair of lovers; everyone shall be more or less spoony--but nobody shall be really in love" (104). When his friend, Miss Juno, objects, saying "That wouldn't be a story" (104), he essentially elaborates a theory of queer fiction writing that interrupts the kind of novelistic love conventions to which Lauren Berlant claims even most queer theorists subscribe, pace "Love [A Queer Feeling]." Clitheroe continues to elaborate his vision of a social landscape defined less by a traditional love plot and more by a series of episodic socio-sexual encounters. Clitheroe's book
would be a history, or a fragment of a history, a glimpse of life at any rate, and that is as much as we ever get of the lives of those around us. Why can't I tell you the story of one fellow--of myself for example; how one day I met this person, and then the next I met that person, and next week someone else comes on to the stage, struts his little hour and departs. I'm not trying to give my audience, my readers, any knowledge of that other fellow. My reader must see for himself how each of those fellows in his own way has influenced me. (104)
A collection of narrative pieces placed in succession, incomplete character development, plot motivation that is not ultimately driven by the goal of monogamous coupling: these are some of the ways Stoddard's own writing has more in common with anthologies than other novels. The "more or less spoony" aesthetic project of For the Pleasure of His Company operates at the intersection of sentimental style and a love plot structured by serial monogamy between men where "nobody shall be really in love." Spooniness allows Stoddard to stand to one side of a plot focused on a pair of lovers without using the novel to affirm the normative form of love that even queers have trouble troubling these days.
There is, obviously, a discernible route to be followed from Stoddard's correspondence with Whitman to the project of Stoddard's novel. But our existing ways of understanding influence and intertextuality don't really account for the unpredictable paths and distortions that queer circulation effects. To be sure, I have delved into only a small section of Stoddard's literary remains. Much more could be said, for instance, of Stoddard's scrapbooks--his assembly of his own life through the collection of everything printed by or about him in other venues--and of his encyclopedic correspondence with other writers and editors of his time. But Stoddard's mawkish embrace of Whitman read through the prism of the anthological reading that foreshadows Stoddard's anthological prose style goes some distance already toward exemplifying what I think is at stake in Stoddard's oeuvre: that queer literary history may perhaps be as fruitfully (if radically differently) narrated through an account of the anthological impulses of a Dayneford or a Stoddard as they are through a Whitman or a Melville. Stoddard's strategies of entextualization and accumulation suggest to us a model for understanding the performative force of reading and writing queer life anthologically at the end of the nineteenth century.
This model focuses less on the love that cannot speak its name than on the multitude of voices that are made to do so--sometimes even in spite of themselves. Not all the books on Dayneford's shelves, after all, were written by queers or intended for a nineteenth-century queer audience. They depend on acts of rogue circulation and on being framed and reframed by--or socializing with--other texts. This model of collection operates less in the service of seeking a vocabulary of sexual identity or a conventionality than it does on world making. It focuses on the narration and production of social worlds and frameworks that facilitate self-understanding. What Stoddard and Whitman, Dayneford and his books, all seem to recognize is that strategies of seemingly derivative entextualization index an emerging consciousness of textual accumulation as an mode of a modern queer "making-up." The anthology, after all, persists as a dominant literary genre of gay and lesbian writing. If Stoddard and readers like him are any indication, the anthological impulse to collect and place side by side, within the pages of individual books, a diverse array of episodes that draw widely on both queer and mainstream literary antecedents makes the case for looking not just at but beyond the usual suspects (like Whitman) for a more robust (queer) literary history. The time is ripe for us not just to do the painstaking editorial work of excavating the queer traffic in literature but to do the theoretical work as well of explaining why and how that traffic matters.
Austen, Roger, and John W. Crowley. Genteel Pagan: The Double Life of Charles Warren Stoddard. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1991.
Carpenter, Edward, ed. Iolaus: An Anthology of Friendship. 1902. New York: Pagan Press, 1982.
Chauncey, George. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay World, 1890-1940. New York: Basic Books, 1994.
Crowley, John W. Introduction. Genteel Pagan: The Double Life of Charles Warren Stoddard. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1991.
Erkkila, Betsy, and Jay Grossman. Breaking Bounds: Whitman and American Cultural Studies. New York: Oxford up, 1996.
Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage, 1978.
Gale, Robert. Charles Warren Stoddard. Boise: Boise State up, 1977.
Gifford, James, ed. Glances Backward: An Anthology of American Homosexual Writing, 1830-1920. Orchard Park: Broadview, 2007.
Howells, William Dean. "Letter to Charles Warren Stoddard. 11 August 1892." South-Sea Idyls. New York: Scribner's, 1919. v-vi.
Katz, Jonathan Ned. Love Stories: Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.
Leavitt, David, and Mark Mitchell. Pages Passed from Hand to Hand: The Hidden Tradition of Homosexual Literature in English from 1748 to 1914. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
Loving, Jerome. Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.
Melville, Herman. Correspondence. Ed. Lynn Horth. Evanston: Northwestern up; Chicago: Newberry Library, 1993.
Moon, Michael. Disseminating Whitman: Revision and Corporeality in Leaves of Grass. Cambridge: Harvard up, 1993.
Norton, Rictor. "Early Gay Historians." Gay History and Literature. http:// rictornorton.co.uk/earlygay.htm.
Prime-Stevenson, Edward [Xavier Mayne]. Imre: A Memorandum. Privately Printed. Naples, 1906.
--. The Intersexes: A History of Simisexualism as a Problem in Social Life. Privately Printed. Naples, 1908.
--. "Out of the Sun." Glances Backward: An Anthology of American Homosexual Writing, 1830-1920. Ed. James Gifford. Orchard Park: Broadview, 2007. 3-4.
Robertson, Michael. Worshipping Walt: The Whitman Disciples. Princeton: Princeton up, 2008.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. "Toward the Twentieth Century: English Readers of Whitman." Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. New York: Columbia up, 1985. 201-17.
Stoddard, Charles Warren. "A South Sea Idyl." Overland Monthly; Devoted to the Development of the Country 3.3 (1869): 257-64.
--. "Chumming With A Savage." South-Sea Idyls. 1873. New York: Scribner's, 1892. 18-79.
--. For the Pleasure of His Company: An Affair of the Misty City: Thrice Told. 1903. San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1987.
--. "In a Transport." South-Sea Idyls. 1873. New York: Scribner's, 1892. 289-310.
--. The Footprints of the Padres. San Francisco: A. M Robertson, 1911.
--. "Letters to Walt Whitman." Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. Ed. Jonathan Ned Katz. Rev. ed. New York: Meridian, 1992. 501-08.
--. South-Sea Idyls. Boston: J. R. Osgood, 1873.
Stroven, Carl. "A Life of Charles Warren Stoddard." Diss. Duke University, 1939.
Tomso, Gregory. "The Queer History of Leprosy and Same-Sex Love." American Literary History 14.4 (2002): 747- 75.
Traubel, Horace. With Walt Whitman in Camden, Volume 3: November 1 1888-January 20 1889. M. Kennerly, 1914.
Twain, Mark. Mark Twain's Autobiography. Ed. Albert Bigelow Paine. Vol. 1. New York: Harper, 1924.
Warner, Michael. Introduction. The Portable Walt Whitman. Ed. Michael Warner. New York: Penguin, 2004. xi-xxxvii.
"WELCOME THE AUTHOR OF THE 'SOUTH SEA IDYLS.'" San Francisco Call. 15 April 1905: 1.
Whitman, Walt. The Correspondence. New York: New York up, 1961.
University of Alberta
(1) Modern reprints of The Intersexes and Imre: A Memorandum, both of which were originally published pseudonymously under the name Xavier Mayne, are still often claimed as works of "the first modern American gay author" (as one edition's back cover announces).
(2) Nor, it seems, did James much mind. In Henry James: The Master, Leon Edel records that James claimed he "enjoyed being feted by the Bohemian Club, where he talked with Charles Warren Stoddard, author of books and sketches about Hawaii and Tahiti" (286).
(3) Critics of his time generally liked his work--especially his travel writing--and there was, generally, a lot of it: the stories in Stoddard's first collection, South-Sea Idyls, were in William Dean Howell's estimation, "the lightest, sweetest, wildest, freshest things that were ever written about the life of that summer ocean" (v). But Stoddard's output exceeds these light, sweet, fresh things to include poems, books, short stories, non-fiction prose, journalism, and one novel, his literary output spanning from the 1860s, when he first began publishing poems, to the time of his death in California in 1909.
(4) Austen's Genteel Pagan (the only extant book devoted to Stoddard) sums up these reviews as follows:
Many of the replies were ... faintly praising. Tennyson "liked" the verses; Longfellow found "a deal of beauty and freshness"; Emerson judged them "good and interesting"; while Fr. John Henry Newman though them "elegant and touching." Other responses were tactfully critical. William Cullen Bryant detected a "certain un-pruned luxuriance"; Henry Ward Beecher looked forward to "other maturer works"; John Stuart Mill cautioned against publishing any poetry "but what is of the very highest quality." Bayard Taylor hesitated to prophesy whether Stoddard would "become part of our literature," and Thomas Wentworth Higginson said it was too early to tell if "verse is to be your appointed means of expression"--a view seconded by Thomas Hughes, who wrote that he did not think "poetry will prove to be your vocation after a few years." (33)
(5) Austen points to a doctor's diagnosis as the reason that Stoddard first went to Hawaii. Having become a "nervous wreck" (26), Stoddard was advised to take a long sea voyage and chose Hawaii. (He had been living in San Francisco at the time.) Even a cursory reading of the available biographical material on Stoddard would generate a complex rationale for his first trip to the South Seas: he was suffering from a psychological malaise, struggling with his studies, and, according to Austen, suffering from the homophobia that surrounded him.
(6) There is some indication that Stoddard may have written again to Melville. Melville's edited correspondence indicates that among Melville's letters appeared a leaf to which, at one time, Melville attached the copy of a second letter "To Charles Warren Stoddard." This letter has been lost, however, so its contents remain unknown.
(7) Whitman admitted that "Those tender & primitive personal relationships away off there in the Pacific Islands, as described by you, touched me deeply" (502).
(8) Horace Traubel, Whitman's friend and secretary, reports that when he and Whitman read through this letter in Camden, Whitman described Stoddard as follows:
Nat Hurley is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta where she specializes in American literature, queer theory, and children's literature. She is co-winner of the Foerster Prize for best essay in American Literature, co-editor of Curiouser: On the Queerness of Children, and is completing a book titled Getting Around: Circulation and the Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Novel in American Literature.
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|Publication:||English Studies in Canada|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2010|
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