It was only after the Stonewall riots and the birth of the gay liberation movement in 1969 that the official category "gay writing" came into being. Yet writings by and about lesbians and gay men have a much longer history than that. In Pages Passed from Hand to Hand
David Leavitt and Mark Mitchell have charted 200 years of writing about gay men that includes such obscure items as Charlotte Chark's 1755 novel The History of Henry Dumont Esq.
and Alan Dale's 1889 A Marriage Below Zero
as well as surprisingly homoerotic work by Herman Melville, Henry James, and Ambrose Bierce. While most of these works were already known to serious readers of gay literature, Leavitt and Mitchell's contribution in Pages Passed from Hand to Hand
is in consciously placing the material in a clear, unambiguously gay tradition for readers of all sexual persuasions.
From Library Journal
Contemporary gay literature is often thought to have no antecedents, either because no works on gay themes were written before our time or because the new gay fiction is so stylistically innovative that nothing like it has ever been seen before. Neither proposition is so. As this volume demonstrates, a rich array of gay literature appeared before E.M. Forster wrote openly of homosexuality in his 1914 novel, Maurice, though much of it was in coded form. Leavitt, one of the leading gay writers of his generation, joins with lover and sometime coauthor Mitchell to offer a choice selection of strictly male homosexual prose by authors ranging from Melville, Pater, Henry James, and Lawrence to Count Eric Stenbock and Gerald Hamilton. The lineage here is that of Forster, whose style?rich, thick, occassionally ebullient, and often bordering on the morose?can be seen as the touchstone. (Indeed, Leavitt self-consciously takes his style from Forster.) A necessary addition to all libraries?that is, until gay men get their own Norton.?David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
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