Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Studies
The Ransom Center holds various collections containing materials that document, in fact and fiction, the lives of LGBTQ people, and the study of sexuality more broadly.
A note about research methods:
The best way to search the Center's finding aids for LGBTQ materials is often by the name of the person you are researching. If you do not have a particular name in mind, another way to find LGBTQ materials is to search for the names of known gays and lesbians from the time period in which you are interested. Often, if you can find some of those individuals listed as correspondents in a particular collection, then that collection might lead you to others.
Keyword searching can also be fruitful. The terms used in finding aids over the years to refer to homosexuality have changed, so several different searches might be necessary. "Gay," "lesbian," and "homo*" (the asterisk will instruct the system to search for all words beginning with "homo") are helpful search terms; "partner," "companion," "life partner," and "intimate" are others that may direct you to the papers of people involved in same-sex relationships. Finally, "obscen*" "sex*" and "porn*" are terms that may help expand your search beyond people who identified as LGBTQ, to collections that reflect the study of sexuality and its social, cultural, and historical manifestations.
Although the Center's collections contain materials by people who might be considered gender queer or transgendered in today's vernacular, those terms have not been used as descriptors. Similarly, although HIV/AIDS is represented in the collection, a search using those terms will not return all of the relevant collections.
The diaries kept by George Cecil Ives (1867–1950), a contemporary of Oscar Wilde and a campaigner for penal reform and fairer treatment of homosexuals, span more than half a century (1890s–1940s) and offer rich accounts of what at least one gay man thought and did, day by day. The Center has 122 diary volumes, photographs, and correspondence, as well as documentation about the Order of Chaeronea, a secret society Ives founded for gay men. Additional Ives correspondence can be found in the archives of the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology (BSS; 1910s–1940s). BSS, co-founded by Ives, Havelock Ellis, Edward Carpenter, and others, concerned itself with all sorts of sexual matters and from the beginning had a strong and loyal membership of homosexuals. The BSS archive contains correspondence, meeting minutes, and other documentation.
The Sexual Inversion volume (1897) of Havelock Ellis's Studies in the Psychology of Sex contains among the earliest, if not the first, instances of autobiographical case studies in sexual psychology in England. There are more than 50 of these queer self-descriptions, and the task of collecting, editing, and publishing them is amply described in letters between Ellis (1859–1939), John Addington Symonds (1840–1893), and Edward Carpenter (1844–1929). The Center holds a separate group of letters by Edward Carpenter, the openly gay writer and Socialist, which may also be of interest.
The two pornographic photo albums assembled by Louis Mountbatten, Marquess of Milford Haven (1854–1921) at the beginning of the twentieth century include several gay layouts that could be of interest to researchers studying homosexuality at the turn of the century.
The material for Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) includes not only his own writings but also the numerous collections centered on his friends and enemies, biographers, apologists, publishers, family, and boyfriends. The Wilde materials include a handwritten notebook containing an 1891 draft of Salomé (in French), a handwritten, partial draft of A Florentine Tragedy, page proofs for The Importance of Being Earnest, as well as incoming and outgoing correspondence and versions of other works. Also in the Wilde collection are third-party works, including Robert Sherard's Oscar Wilde: The Story of an Unhappy Friendship (1902, 1905) and Frank Harris's Mr. and Mrs. Daventry (based on a plot by Wilde), and correspondence between people who were associated with Wilde, his family, and his biographers. Art by and about Oscar Wilde resides in the Center's art collection. The Center also holds papers of Oscar Wilde's boyfriend, poet Lord Alfred Douglas (1870–1945), which include some correspondence and versions of several works about Oscar Wilde. The collection of Frank Harris (1856–1931), Wilde's friend and one of his biographers, contains significant correspondence from Vyvyan Holland, Wilde's youngest son, and Robbie Ross, one of his most loyal friends, as well as notes and fragments from Harris's biography of Wilde. The correspondence and research materials in the collection of Hesketh Pearson (1887–1964), the popular English biographer of Lytton Strachey and George Bernard Shaw and author of The Life of Oscar Wilde (1946), contain additional information about Wilde. The Center also has the records of the John Lane Company, which include a group of letters written to Lane from Edward Shelley, one of the young men involved with Wilde.
The lawyer H. Montgomery Hyde (1907–1989) created a collection that documents his research on Wilde, Henry James, and Roger Casement, as well as the history of pornography. Roger Casement (1864–1916) was a consular diplomat, tireless campaigner for human rights, and Irish nationalist who was convicted of high treason and hanged in 1916. Although Casement's homosexuality was not an explicit factor during his trial, it was exploited afterward to discourage any case for clemency. The small collection created by Hyde while he was preparing The Trial of Sir Roger Casement (1960) includes a transcript of Casement's 1910 diary from when he was in Peru and Brazil, a transcript of Casement's interrogation at Scotland Yard, and other documents relating to Hyde's work and the authenticity of Casement's diaries. The Ottoline Morrell (1873–1938) collection includes drafts of petitions for clemency for Casement and a general account of his activities from 1914 until his arrest, as well as a small amount of correspondence with Casement's cousin, Gertrude Bannister. The Center also has a copy of Queer People (1922), written by Basil Thomson, Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, which includes several pages describing his impressions of Casement during his interrogation on Easter Sunday, 1916.
The papers of Radclyffe Hall (1880–1943), née Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall, who assumed the name John in private life, include many of Hall's works in manuscript, including The Well of Loneliness (1928), the classic lesbian novel for which she is best known. The Center also has some of her diaries and a number of letters from and to her, supplemented by a large collection of photographs of Hall, her family, friends, and favorite pets. In addition, there is an extensive group of papers kept by her partner, Una, Lady Troubridge (1887–1963), including Troubridge's voluminous diaries and correspondence. This collection is rounded out by letters to Troubridge from Evguenia Souline (1904–1958?), the Russian nurse émigrée with whom Hall had an affair. The Havelock Ellis papers include correspondence from Hall regarding Well of Loneliness, including a letter she sent him with a copy of the manuscript. The archive of lawyer Morris Ernst (1888–1976) can be explored for the public reception of Well of Loneliness. Ernst defended the book when attempts were made to censor it in the U.S. His papers contain not only documents relating to the British (successful) and American (unsuccessful) censorship efforts, but also many letters by fellow authors who supported Hall, and a handful of letters from those who did not.
A curious amalgam of fact and fiction can be found in Compton Mackenzie's (1883–1972) own copy of his novel Vestal Fire (1927). Like another of his books, Extraordinary Women (1928), it is a lightly disguised depiction of the lives of gay men and women in Capri just before World War I. The Center's copy of Vestal Fire has been extra-illustrated by the author himself with photographs of the real life counterparts of his fictional characters. Successive drafts of both of these novels are here in the author's immense archive.
The large French collection of Carlton Lake contains several collections of particular interest to sexuality scholars. Gertrude Stein (1874–1946) knew everybody and was a prolific writer and correspondent. The Ransom Center has only a few works of hers in manuscript, including "Composition as Explanation" (1926), but holds a more significant number of letters to and from her. One group of correspondence is between Stein and Charles Henri Ford, and another large group consists of letters from Stein to the artist Sir Francis Rose (1909–1979). There is also a cache of photographs of Stein and a small archive of her secretary and companion, Alice B. Toklas (1877–1967).
The large cache of Jean Cocteau (1889–1963) sketches in the Lake collection includes some of his homoerotic drawings, as well as successive drafts and the scarce first edition of his highly colored account of his stay as an employee of a Marseilles brothel, Le Livre blanc (1928). For more about Cocteau and his materials in the Lake collection, please see the French Literature section of the Ransom Center's Guide. Jean Genet's (1910–1986) subversive Notre Dame des fleurs (1944) is present in the Lake collection in a draft version. Also notable, in the Center's book collection, are pornographic plates illustrating a medley of Jean Genet texts that have the title Vingt lithographies pour un livre que j'ai lu (1945). Although it appears to have been published, the Ransom Center knows of no copy other than its own.
The Saillet collection of Sylvia Beach, also part of the Lake collection, documents Beach's work as the proprietress of Shakespeare and Company, the Paris bookstore she owned from 1919 to 1941, and her relationship with the French poet and publisher Adrienne Monnier, who owned La Maison des Amis des Livres, one of the first woman-owned bookstores in France. Beach was the first publisher of James Joyce's Ulysses, in 1922. The materials include her correspondence (in French) with Monnier, documents and photographs related to Shakespeare and Company, and photographs of authors such as Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound, as well as of Beach and Monnier.
One of the people who contributed financially to Shakespeare and Company was Winifred Bryher (1894–1983), the lesbian shipping heiress, poet, historical novelist, film critic, and editor who was involved in an open, lifelong relationship with the poet H. D. (Hilda Doolittle). Bryher, as she was known, is represented in several of the Center's holdings, including the collections of the various members of the Sitwell family, and in Sacheverell Sitwell's correspondence in particular. She was a friend and patron to Oswell Blakeston (1907–1985), the British artist and writer; his papers include a significant amount of correspondence from Bryher, some of which is about H. D.
The woodcuts of Ralph Chubb (1892–1960), boy-loving mystic and poet, are found in the Center's near-comprehensive trove of his privately-printed books.
The Elizabeth Bowen (1899–1973) collection reflects her long and productive career and includes drafts of many of her novels with queer characters. Manuscripts for The Hotel (1927), The Last September (1929), and Friends and Relations (1931), as well as other novels, short stories, and non-fiction works, are represented. Extensive correspondence from her literary agents, as well as a significant amount from friends such as Virginia Woolf, Eudora Welty, May Sarton, with whom she had a brief romance, and a large number of Bowen's letters to Charles Ritchie, her long-time lover, may also be of interest to researchers. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. became Bowen's American publisher in 1933, and after 1949 her work was generally published first by Knopf.
Victoria (Vita) Sackville-West (1892–1962) has renown as a novelist, garden writer, and pastoral poet. She is also known for her several personalities: the gay wife of a gay husband (Sir Harold Nicolson, diplomat and biographer) in a much-analyzed marriage; the thwarted heiress of one of England's finest houses, Knole; and a prolific seducer of married or otherwise engaged women, as well as a few men. The Center has assorted holdings of Sackville-West's manuscripts and letters, which are supported by reactions to her and her works found in the books and papers of those whose lives she touched. The Center has many editions of Virginia Woolf's (1882–1941) valentine to her, the novel Orlando (1928), and one of these has been heavily annotated by Vita and Harold's son, Nigel Nicolson, to spell out the corresponding details of the protagonist, Orlando, and the real-life Vita. In addition, one of Sackville-West's victims, Roy Campbell (1902–1957), whose wife Mary was seduced by Sackville-West, responded with a blistering poetic attack within The Georgiad (1931). The Center has a printed copy of the poem in which Campbell has laid out his accusations in manuscript in no uncertain terms.
Jocelyn Brooke (1908–1966), the English naturalist and author of nearly 20 books, including The Military Orchid (1948) and The Image of a Drawn Sword (1950), is represented by drafts of many of his works and correspondence from friends and colleagues including Edith Sitwell, Osbert Sitwell, Edward Sackville-West, Vita Sackville-West, and Eric Oliver, the boyfriend of Denton Welch. Brooke also wrote the introductions for and edited The Denton Welch Journals (1952) and Denton Welch: Extracts from his Published Books (1963). Drafts of Brooke's introduction for the latter are included in his archive; Denton Welch's original journals are part of the Denton Welch (1915–1948) papers, also held at the Center. These journals, handwritten in slim notebooks, span the years 1942 to 1948. Welch's papers also include manuscripts for the works he wrote in the last eight years of his life, correspondence, and in particular his letters to Eric Oliver from shortly after they met in November 1943 through July 1947, with one postcard from 1948. The papers also include third-party correspondence, notably Jocelyn Brooke's letters to Oliver from 1951 to 1963, as he was preparing Welch's work for publication. Several photographs of Welch, Oliver, their families, and others add a visual dimension to the collection; the Center also holds several of Welch's paintings and drawings in its art collection.
Carlo Coccioli (1920–2003) was an Italian-born novelist whose book Fabrizio Lupo (1952) many consider the first gay Italian novel, although it was initially published in France. Coccioli, who was a trilingual writer and translator, moved to Mexico City in 1954, and his papers include manuscripts and correspondence in Italian, French, and Spanish. Of particular note are the typescripts, notes, and correspondence related to Fabrizio Lupo and the multitude of letters written to Coccioli by his readers, many of whom were gay men, in the 1950s. Coccioli's materials provide important insight into the queer Latin American literary world; his correspondence with Argentine novelist Abelardo Arias is particularly rich in this respect. Researchers interested in queer spirituality may be intrigued by Coccoili's correspondence with Jacques Baril, as well as by the research notes, manuscripts, and correspondence related to Uomini in fuga (1973), Coccioli's partly autobiographical novel about Alcoholics Anonymous.
Beverley Nichols's (1898–1983) A Case of Human Bondage (1966) is a furious attack on W. Somerset Maugham on the occasion of Maugham's philippic against his own wife, Syrie. In the process of defending the wife and attacking the husband, Nichols also implicates Maugham's longtime secretary and lover Gerald Haxton, revealing that he was arrested for gross indecency in 1916 and eventually deported as a result. The Center has a total of 14 of Nichols's works in draft form, including the manuscript for this book. Materials relating to W. Somerset Maugham (1874–1965) include manuscripts, correspondence, a nearly complete run of his first editions, 200 photographs, and several portraits.
A most ingenious treatment of the last days of General Charles Gordon (1833–1885), the martyr of Khartoum, can be found in Robin Maugham's (1916–1981) novel The Last Encounter (1972). Maugham also wrote an entirely fictional account of homosexual intrigue called The Servant (1966). Working papers and drafts of both are here. Those interested in General Gordon should also see the set of maps of the Nile that he drew for the Royal Geographical Society in the 1860s and 1870s.
Paul Scott (1920–1978) created several gay characters, both male and female, in the four novels that comprise The Raj Quartet (1965–1975). One who is essential to the plot is the villain Ronald Merrick. An examination of successive drafts of the novels reveals dense dialogues and descriptions involving Merrick that were altered or dropped from the published version. His papers also include manuscripts and notes pertaining to the character of Barbie. The accusation that Barbie has pursued a love affair with Mabel Layton creates a whirlwind of trouble for all concerned, but especially for Barbie herself, who becomes mute and dies.
Whether accusations of homosexuality are true or false is almost beside the point in Lillian Hellman's (1905–1984) The Children's Hour (1934), which is here in Hellman's manuscript. The author's own material for this play may be supplemented by archival material in the performing arts collection having to do with the difficulties of its production.
Many of the materials in the Center's performing arts collections reflect the lives and representations of LGBTQ men and women. Indeed, there are many studio and even candid photographs of notorious actors, directors, producers, and agents; assorted letters and other documents by well-known names; clippings; and scrapbooks—all scattered across many different holdings.
Delving into the collection of David O. Selznick (1902–1965), the film producer, will turn up miscellaneous findings: a letter in support of the rehabilitation of the openly gay English director James Whale (1896–1957), a talent scout's rejection of Sir John Gielgud (1904–2000) as too effeminate for a role, the suggestion that a property called "Daddy's Boy" should be bought as a vehicle for the young Roddy McDowall (1928–1998). The papers contain a series of contracts, letters, memos, and telegrams that center around the personality and career of the young McDowall. Another file within the Selznick collection documents the search for an actress to play Mrs. Danvers, the domineering and villainous housekeeper in Rebecca (1940), and subsequent dealings with the successful applicant, Judith Anderson (1898–1992), who is rumored to have been gay. The studio stills and publicity shots of Louise Brooks (1906–1985), who dabbled in lesbianism, are especially attractive, while those of Lilyan Tashman (1899–1934) are both camp and frightening.
The correspondence files in the Selznick materials are as intriguing for the matters they address as for what they clearly ignore. For example, one might expect the material on director George Cukor (1899–1983) to confirm the rumors of his arrest for a homosexual offense, contain criticism of his all-male pool parties, or refer to objections taken to him by Clark Gable during the filming of Gone With the Wind. Similarly, in the Henry Willson (1911?–1978) files one might anticipate finding evidence of his aggressive promotion of hot-ticket male stars, new discoveries for which he was known. Yet such confirmations, criticisms, references, and evidence are hard to come by. Instead, one finds the rather dry, but still illuminating, documents that show the business-like relations between studios on the one hand, and directors such as Cukor or talent-scouts such as Willson on the other hand. It is better, with the Selznick collection, to focus on certain personalities in depth (and usually across many boxes of material).
The Gloria Swanson (1899–1983) papers contain a cache of letters, packets, and other debris fired off to Swanson by filmmaker and gossip Kenneth Anger (1927– ).
Tennessee Williams's (1911–1983) short story Hard Candy (1959), his novella The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1950), and his play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) are here in draft fragments, revisions, and other versions in his voluminous collection. The literary files of the Center's photography collection contain a rich assortment of images of Williams, from baby photos to a handful taken in his last years, as well as images of boyfriends, agents, actors, actresses, and hangers-on—in short, a pictorial documentation of the life of a gay man in and out of the theater.
The Center's collections include the lengthy diaries of Charles Henri Ford (1913–2002), avant-gardist, poet, flâneur, and boyfriend of the artist Pavel Tchelitchew (1898–1957). Ford's diaries, which span 1932 to 1967, provide a lively record of his sexual encounters, his arrest for public indecency, the cruising protocols of Paris and Athens, among other cities, and other details from the life of an active gay man in the twentieth century. Ford's papers also include correspondence with Natalie Barney and Sylvia Beach, as well as large caches of letters from Edith Sitwell, Tchelitchew, and the writer Djuna Barnes (1892–1982), who was Ford's friend and roommate and the author of Nightwood (1936), one of the earliest novels to depict lesbian relationships. Nightwood is but one topic addressed in this group of letters, in which Ford's correspondents also discuss their professional and artistic aspirations, projects, romantic concerns, and much more.
The diaries of Walter Willard "Spud" Johnson (1897–1968), who served as columnist and editor of the Taos newspapers Laughing Horse and The Horse Fly, are full of details of seductions and chance encounters amidst the New Mexico art scene of the 1920s and 1930s. Additional perspectives and insights can be found in letters to and from William Goyen (1915–1983), who was an occasional participant in the New Mexico set.
With Carson McCullers (1917–1967) the Ransom Center has a comprehensive collection. All of her works are here in drafts, revisions, published versions, translations, and adaptations. Besides her forte—outsiders, misfits, and marginal characters—she has at least one main figure who is tragically queer, Captain Penderton in Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941), and one other, Frankie in The Member of the Wedding (1951), who is suspiciously tomboyish. McCullers's life is as well documented as her work. There are letters to and from her husband, Reeves; correspondence with David Diamond, to whom both she and her husband were attracted; many communications with her sympathetic psychologist; a significant group of intimate letters from Swiss writer Annemarie Schwarzenbach, to whom McCullers dedicated Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941); and correspondence with members of her family. The collection is rounded out with photographs, portraits, and some objects, including clothes, that belonged to McCullers.
Beginning in 1958, the American writer Fanny Hurst (1889–1968) hosted the New York-based television talk show Showcase, which broadcast frank discussions about homosexuality. A March show about the gay community in New York included a member of the New York chapter of the Mattachine Society as a panelist; a similar broadcast about lesbianism, planned for the following week, was cancelled due to what Hurst characterized as "severe censorship." The Center's Fanny Hurst papers include eight boxes of incoming correspondence (1957–1960) regarding Showcase.
Gore Vidal's (1925– ) novel Myra Breckinridge (1968) is present in typescript with manuscript revisions. In addition, the Center has a draft of Vidal's early and more subdued The City and the Pillar (1948). Both of these novels would be included in any canon of twentieth-century gay fiction. Correspondence from Vidal appears in the Center's holdings of authors as varied as Edith Sitwell, Hugh Kenner, and Norman Mailer.
In 1956, James Baldwin (1924–1987) published Giovanni's Room, his groundbreaking novel about an American man's homosexual exploits in Paris in the 1950s. Baldwin first offered the manuscript to Knopf, which had published his debut novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), but the publisher refused it. The vast archive of the Alfred A. Knopf records contains this rejection letter, as well as Baldwin's correspondence with Knopf staff about Go Tell It on the Mountain. The Center's small James Baldwin collection also includes manuscript fragments of Baldwin's Another Country (1962), which includes the bisexual characters Eric and Rufus.
The working drafts of Mary McCarthy's (1912–1989) novel The Group (1963), which introduces the memorable character of Lakey, might be significant to researchers interested in the representation of lesbians in fiction.
There is one small folder in the Joseph Abeles photojournalism archive in the performing arts collection that contains photographs documenting homosexuality as a subject. The small collection was formed by Michael Emory and consists solely of prints used to illustrate his compilation The Gay Picture Guide Book (1978). The photographs depict men congregating near a section of New York's Central Park called The Rambles. The nearly 100 images of New York gays milling about, a short time after the Stonewall riots (June 1969), are historically important.
The career of Terrence McNally (1939– ), the author of plays, musicals, and other works, is well documented by the drafts, scripts, correspondence, and production materials in his papers. Several of his works with homosexual characters or that explore the deepening AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s are represented in the collection, including Lisbon Traviata (1985, 1989), Lips Together, Teeth Apart (1991), Love! Valour! Compassion! (1994), Kiss of the Spider Woman (1992), Corpus Christi (1998), the television movie Andre's Mother (1988, 1990), and others. The materials related to these works, as well as the correspondence McNally received from viewers and readers about the stories he depicts, including letters from the mothers of AIDS sufferers, may be of interest to researchers.
Much of what might have remained private regarding the lives of certain gay men was revealed in their trials, sentencing hearings, appeals, parole hearings, and similar events. The Ransom Center has significant material pertaining to the following cases.
Nathan "Babe" Leopold (1904–1971) and Dickie Loeb (1905–1936) were convicted of murder in 1924. There are photographs, many unpublished, of these and other notorious homosexual murderers and victims in the photograph morgue of the New York Journal American. The correspondence between Leopold and Erle Stanley Gardner (1889–1970) in Gardner's "Court of Last Resort" archive provides more insight into the Leopold-Loeb case. Additional unpublished photographs of Leopold are scattered among the correspondence there, along with intriguing third-party correspondence, including a lengthy letter from one of Leopold's fellow prisoners that confirms the continuing homosexual practices and attitudes of both Leopold and Loeb after their imprisonment.
Writer Rupert Croft-Cooke (1903–1979) was convicted of gross indecency, like Oscar Wilde. He was one of the more notable victims of the strong police actions against homosexuals in Britain in the 1950s. The circumstances of his arrest and the details of his prison experience are given in his book The Verdict of You All (1955); further particulars of his varied life are found in his correspondence. The manuscript and papers related to the book, plus his letters, are within his archive.
Sir Compton MacKenzie, who served as a character witness at Croft-Cooke's trial, evokes the spectre of these same police actions in his novel, Thin Ice (1956), the manuscript and other working papers of which are at the Ransom Center. Its protagonist is probably loosely based on the notorious Member of Parliment, Tom Driberg (1905–1976).
Finally, there is documentation for one lesbian crime in the morgue of the New York Journal American: the stabbing of Lana Turner's paramour, Johnny Stompanato, by Turner's daughter Cheryl Crane (1943–), who later revealed her lesbianism. The morgue has several large folders of photographs of Crane, Turner, and Stompanato; these may be supplemented by the large clippings file on the case kept by Erle Stanley Gardner in the "Legal Cases" section of his archive.
For those interested in a broader enquiry into the lives and accomplishments of LGBTQ people and their allies, names are the best entrée for Ransom Center catalog records, finding lists, archival descriptions, and webpages. A few examples are books owned by William Beckford (1760–1844); letters of Robert, duc de Montesquiou (1855–1921); and hundreds of photographs by Carl Van Vechten (1932–1964).
The following holdings, though not described in detail in this section, might also be of interest to researchers:
Don Bachardy Sybille Bedford, Jane Bowles, Paul Bowles, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Glenville, Stephen Gray, Allanah Harper, Christopher Isherwood, Francis King, Norman Mailer, Peter Orlovsky, James Purdy, Fred Urquhart, Robert Wren
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