italian stallion (medicate) wrote in little_details,
italian stallion

discovery of + reaction to homosexuality/"inversion" in 1920s english aristocracy

All right, this is going to take quite a bit of explaining, so please bear with me, here, because I really need some help.

I've got a man, E, in his late 20s/early 30s--born in 1894--who is the youngest of eight siblings (three older brothers) and the son of a very minor Viscount. While he's "closeted", he has the mannerisms and style of a pronounced invert. In 1920, he leaves England to live in Paris (the plaza athenee at first, and in 1925--after being disinherited in 1923--he takes a flat in Montparnasse) with his lover, C, who is also a member of the aristocracy (eldest son of an Earl, doesn't inherit until late 1930s)--they had been friends since childhood, and are travelling/living together under the guise of being good friends and travelling companions. They also travel to America (New York, Boston, SF, etc), Italy, Switzerland, N. Africa, etc. Their lifestyle is relatively flagrant, within their own homosexual social circle--lots of parties, lots of liaisons, lots of time spent with "undesirables", but no run-ins with police or anyone from England who would recognize them.

Here is where I have run into some trouble. How much of this would get back to England, and what would the reaction be, there, outside of the direct family unit? If E is spending most of his time with the French and the Americans (artists, writers, etc), keeping essentially zero contact with his set, would he be able to keep word of his activities from reaching his family (and the rest of the aristocracy)? If word did reach them, how much would become common knowledge, and what would be the reaction in England? Would his family become "outcasts" in society as well? Would he be prevented from returning to the family seat?

I know that gossip/society columns in English papers sometimes reported on nobles' activities abroad, but I'm not sure how much could be hushed up and how much would get out, or whether they would mention things like "wild parties" without particular reference to homosexuality..? If people from England did learn of his lifestyle in Paris, would they refuse to speak about it or gossip wildly? If he wanted to live in Paris "secretly", so to speak, without identifying himself to the people there as a member of the English aristocracy, would it be possible?

Another problem I'm having is knowing how much C would suffer as a result of E's fairly ostentatious lifestyle. C is far more secretive about his own activities, but when he returns to England in the late '20s, would E's reputation ruin his own (if E had a significant reputation at all)?

I've read a lot--really, a lot--on Victorian/Edwardian homosexuality and the Victorian/Edwardian aristocracy (London and the Culture of Homosexuality, Stranger, The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde, etc etc etc); I've also read a lot on homosexuality in interwar Europe, UK and America (Queer London, Gay New York, History of Homosexuality in Europe 1919-1939, etc etc). The problem with what I've read is that most of it is about homosexuality within the working-class or bourgeoisie, and the little that does relate to English aristocrats tends to refer to Victorian-era men who engaged in affairs while still on English soil--I'm looking for something more specific to my character's situation and time period. The closest parallel I found to my character's situation was in the biography of Stephen Tennant, who had a similar status and lifestyle, but he didn't have very many affairs, and a lot of his erratic behavior could be passed off by the fact that he was an artist (my character isn't)...

I know this isn't so much "little details" as "large details", but I would be really thankful if anyone could help! And if there is anyone here who has a particular specialty in this subject/time period, I would love to ask more questions. Thank you!
Tags: 1920-1929, uk: history (misc), uk: nobility, ~homosexuality: history

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