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Tony Grist

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Our Great British Public Schools [Nov. 13th, 2012|10:05 pm]
Tony Grist
I don't know where paedophilia comes from and I may be barking up entirely the wrong tree but it occurs to me that if you place young males of the ruling class in schools where it's covertly (or not so covertly) accepted that bigger boys take smaller boys as their bitches you shouldn't be entirely surprised if some of them carry this behaviour over into adult life.

[User Picture]From: michaleen
2012-11-14 11:33 am (UTC)
In a similar fashion, Mother Church's little problem begins in Her seminaries.

In his biography of Oscar Wilde, Frank Harris had some rather harsh words for English public schools and ventured that, if mothers knew what really went on in such places, boarding schools would vanish overnight.

He also noted that, historically, the Church functioned as an escalator in an otherwise rigid class system and that any man theoretically might advance through the social ranks via the priesthood. Harris said that, with the waning of the Church's temporal power, sexual perversion had taken its place, offering an ambitious young man a ready means to rise above his station. Such men were found at all levels of English society and had an out-sized yet largely hidden influence on politics and culture.

As this thing unfolds, I am reminded of those words quite often.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-11-14 06:25 pm (UTC)
I believe Frank Harris was right on both counts.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2012-11-15 02:09 pm (UTC)
I should sound at least a note of caution, though.

By sexual perversion Harris obviously meant homo-erotic activity and this from a man who enjoyed seducing teen-aged girls. When he declared this one a pithecine, or that one a common scoundrel, I may accept his judgement but a voice of moral authority Frank Harris was not. His treatment of Wilde is available at Project Gutenberg, by the way. I found it surprisingly well written.

Today, it's not such a big deal, but within living memory it was illegal to be actively homosexual and ruinous to be discovered as such. Yet, isn't it also true that a large element of HM civil service is gay? I remember British friends mentioning this about Sir Humphrey Appleby, when they learned I'd seen Yes, Minister. If there was a sizeable number of gay civil servants, there might also exist a relatively powerful network of mutual aid and protection shielding its members from public scrutiny, one that has been successfully doing so for a very long time. It isn't so much conspiracy, in the usual sense, so much as a matter of survival. Given the cruel persecution they faced, who could blame them?

The problem is that such a network might be abused to shield most any behaviour, however noxious, and slippery slopes can get steeper when you're already beyond the law and the prophets.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2012-11-15 02:19 pm (UTC)
Looks like that was volume two. Here's volume one.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-11-15 03:19 pm (UTC)
Frank Harris was notorious for making things up. I understand his book on Wilde needs to be read with a salt cellar to hand.

If Wilde were around today we'd be collaring him as a paedophile. Some of his boys- in particular the ones he purchased in the Middle East- were almost certainly below our current age of consent.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2012-11-16 11:31 am (UTC)
I shall repeat that it is well-written.

Harris's defence of Wilde isn't credible on the face of it, actually. What comes across is that he was very fond of Oscar and devoted a lot of effort to, if not exonerating him then, at least searching earnestly for a more favourable light in which to cast him. I suspect however that the utter contempt in which Harris held England, English morality, and the English themselves, was entirely genuine. I'd even venture that's why Mencken sung his praises so.

Honestly? If Michelangelo Buonarotti were around today you'd be collaring him as well. I rather think that was Harris's point and it's as valid today as it was a hundred years ago.
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