Heroes and Exiles: Gay Icons Through the Ages
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- 25th January 2010
- 224 pages - 198 x 128 xmm
Demonised by the Church throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, homosexuals became the scapegoats of society, constantly facing exile or a brutal death. In "Heroes to Exiles", the human cost of this long exile is told through the lives of the most eminent homosexual men and women in history. Some were artists like the wild living Benvenuto Cellini or the repressed Edward Lear. Others were poets such as Thomas Gray, W. H. Auden or novelists such as Henry James and A. J. Symonds. Their places of refuge changed through the centuries from Italy in the 18th, to Paris in the 19th and Berlin, California and Tangier in the 20th. Some experiences were tragic, like those of William Beckford, Lord Byron or Oscar Wilde, and some were triumphant, like the remarkable story of the Ladies of Llangollen who became the most famous lesbians in Europe. Often treated with outright suspicion, homosexuals were targets for the totalitarian dictatorships of the 20th century. As such they were consigned in their tens of thousands to exile in Siberia or to the Nazi death camps.Even when peace returned after World War II most democracies still proscribed homosexual behaviour, forcing the Americans Paul Bowles and James Baldwin to seek exile in Europe and North Africa. Today the tolerance of Ancient Greece has returned to most Western societies although homosexuals are still persecuted in some Islamic countries such as Iran. In "Heroes to Exiles", Tom Ambrose asks if we have finally realised that sexual orientation is as irrelevant to character and achievement as gender and skin colour and if the long exile has ended.
Tom Ambrose read history at Trinity College Dublin and gained a postgraduate degree at University College London. His recent books include The Nature of Despotism: From Caligula to Mugabe, the Making of Tyrants (2008), Godfather of the Revolution (2008), the first English biography of Philippe Egalite, Duke of Orleans and Prinny and His Pals (2009), a re-evaluation of the character of King George IV through his many friendships with artists, writers and politicians.