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John Addington Symonds Biography

Late historian, poet, and literary critic
Pro to the question "Is Sexual Orientation Determined at Birth?"

“It was my primary object when I began these autobiographical notes … to supply material for the ethical psychologist and the student of mental pathology, by portraying a man of no mean talents, of no abnormal depravity, whose life has been perplexed from first to last by passion — natural, instinctive, healthy in his own particular case — but morbid and abominable from the point of view of the society in which he lives — persistent passion for the male sex… that it was my duty to put on record the facts and phases of this aberrant inclination in myself — so that fellow-sufferers from the like malady, men innocent as I have been, yet haunted as I have been by a sense of guilt and dread of punishment, men injured in their character and health by the debasing influences of a furtive and lawless love, men deprived of the best pleasures which reciprocated passion yields to mortals, men drive in upon ungratified desires and degraded by humiliating outbursts of ungovernable appetite, should feel that they are not alone…”

The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds, Ed. Phyllis Grosskurth, 1986

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Late historian, poet, and literary critic
  • MA, Magdalen College, University of Oxford
  • Died on Apr. 19, 1893
  • Married and had four daughters, but had affairs with men
  • First person to translate Michelangelo’s sonnets into English and to publicize the artist’s homosexuality
  • Upon his death, Symonds gave his executor his autobiography with the instructions “to save it from destruction after my death, and yet to reserve its publication for a period when it will not be injurious to my family.” The manuscript was not published until 1984.
  • Symonds was originally listed as the coauthor of Sexual Inversion, but after his death his executor removed his name from future copies.