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Table of contents
PREFACE
INTRODUCTION-1.1
INTRODUCTION-1.2
INTRODUCTION-1.3
INTRODUCTION-1.4
INTRODUCTION-1.5
INTRODUCTION-1.6
INTRODUCTION-1.7
FOOTNOTES-1
FOOTNOTES-2
THE STUDY OF SEXUAL INVERSION
SEXUAL INVERSION IN MEN-1
SEXUAL INVERSION IN MEN-2
SEXUAL INVERSION IN MEN-3
HISTORY-1-2-3-4
HISTORY-5
HISTORY-6
HISTORY-7-8
HISTORY-9
HISTORY-10-11-12
HISTORY-13-14
HISTORY-15
HISTORY-16-17-18-19
HISTORY-20
HISTORY-21 (begin)
HISTORY-21 (end)
HISTORY-22-23-24
HISTORY-25
HISTORY-26
HISTORY-27
HISTORY-28-29-30-31-32
HISTORY-33
SEXUAL INVERSION IN WOMEN-1
SEXUAL INVERSION IN WOMEN-2
SEXUAL INVERSION IN WOMEN-3
SEXUAL INVERSION IN WOMEN-4
HISTORY-34-35-36-37
HISTORY-38
HISTORY-39.1
HISTORY-39.2
HISTORY-39.3
HISTORY-39.4
FOOTNOTES
THE NATURE OF SEXUAL INVERSION-1
THE NATURE OF SEXUAL INVERSION-2
THE NATURE OF SEXUAL INVERSION-3
THE NATURE OF SEXUAL INVERSION-4
FOOTNOTES
THE THEORY OF SEXUAL INVERSION-1
THE THEORY OF SEXUAL INVERSION-2
THE THEORY OF SEXUAL INVERSION-3
CONCLUSIONS-1
CONCLUSIONS-2
CONCLUSIONS-3
CONCLUSIONS-4
FOOTNOTES
APPENDIX A
APPENDIX B-1
APPENDIX B-2-3-4
INDEX OF AUTHORS

 

 

Again, a month later (May 24, 1888), Whitman speaks to Traubel of 

a "beautiful letter" from Symonds. "You will see that he harps on 

the Calamus poems again. I don't see why it should, but his 

recurrence to that subject irritates me a little. I suppose you 

might say--why don't you shut him up by answering him? There is 

no logical answer to that I suppose: but I may ask in my turn: 

'What right has he to ask questions anyway?'" W. laughed a bit. 

"Anyway the question comes back to me almost every time he 

writes. He is courteous enough about it--that is the reason I do 

not resent him. I suppose the whole thing will end in an answer 

some day." 

 

The letter follows. The chief point in it is that the writer 

hopes he has not been importunate in the question he had asked 

about Calamus three years before. 

 

"I [Traubel] said to W.: 'That's a humble letter enough: I don't 

see anything in that to get excited about. He doesn't ask you to 

answer the old question. In fact he rather apologizes for having 

asked it.' W. fired up 'Who is excited? As to that question, he 

does ask it again and again: asks it, asks it, asks it.' I 

laughed at his vehemence. 'Well, suppose he does? It does not 

harm. Besides, you've got nothing to hide. I think your silence 

might lead him to suppose there was a nigger in your wood pile.' 

'Oh, nonsense! But for thirty years my enemies and friends have 

been asking me questions about the _Leaves_: I'm tired of not 

answering questions.' It was very funny to see his face when he 

gave a humorous twist to the fling in his last phrase. Then he 

relaxed and added: 'Anyway I love Symonds. Who could fail to love 

a man who could write such a letter? I suppose he will yet have 

to be answered, damn 'im!'" 

 

It is clear that these conversations considerably diminish the force of 

the declaration in Whitman's letter. We see that the letter which, on the 

face of it, might have represented the swift and indignant reaction of a 

man who, suddenly faced by the possibility that his work may be 

interpreted in a perverse sense, emphatically repudiates that 

interpretation, was really nothing of the kind. Symonds for at least 

eighteen years had been gently, considerately, even humbly, yet 

persistently, asking the same perfectly legitimate question. If the answer 

was really an emphatic no, it would more naturally have been made in 1872 

than 1890. Moreover, in the face of this ever-recurring question, Whitman 

constantly speaks to his friends of his great affection for Symonds and 

his admiration for his intellectual cuteness, feelings that would both be 

singularly out of place if applied to a man who was all the time 

suggesting the possibility that his writings contained inferences that 

were "terrible," "morbid," and "damnable." Evidently, during all those 

years, Whitman could not decide what to reply. On the one hand he was 

moved by his horror of being questioned, by his caution, by his natural 

aversion to express approval of anything that could be called unnatural or 

abnormal. On the other hand, he was moved by the desire to let his work 

speak for itself, by his declared determination to leave everything open, 

and possibly by a more or less conscious sympathy with the inferences 

presented to him. It was not until the last years of his life, when his 

sexual life belonged to the past, when weakness was gaining on him, when 

he wished to put aside every drain on his energies, that--being 

constitutionally incapable of a balanced scientific statement--he chose 

the simplest and easiest solution of the difficulty.[99] 

 

Concerning another great modern writer--Paul Verlaine, the first of modern 

French poets--it seems possible to speak with less hesitation. A man who 

possessed in fullest measure the irresponsible impressionability of 

genius, Verlaine--as his work shows and as he himself admitted--all his 

life oscillated between normal and homosexual love, at one period 

attracted to women, at another to men. He was without doubt, it seems to 

me, bisexual. An early connection with another young poet, Arthur Rimbaud, 

terminated in a violent quarrel with his friend, and led to Verlaine's 


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