The last reason for the neglect of Arcadie is more practical. The organization had closed down in largely because Baudry, traumatized by the attacks upon him from radical gay activists, had had enough. Indeed he had had enough of France, and he went into exile near Naples where he has lived ever since. Suspicious and embittered, he refused to grant interviews. When I started my research, people could not even tell me if he was still alive, and although there were rumours about the hoard of papers he had allegedly taken with him, no one really knew.
Perhaps because I am British, and therefore outside the world of French homosexual activism, and because I had fortuitously been a member of his organization, I was able, having established Baudry was alive, to gain access to him where no one had succeeded before, and through him, to meet many of his former collaborators. These people are now mostly very old — Baudry himself is eighty-three and almost totally blind. Meeting them has been sometimes frustrating. The bad news was that when he went down to the cellar to find the papers he had stored there, he found they had been badly damaged in a flood.
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I found this information so upsetting that I no longer remember what the good news was. Sometimes I am reminded of the scene in Fellini's film Roma where rare frescoes are discovered by workers excavating underground, but almost as soon as these marvels appear the breath of the workers causes them to fade away.
In such circumstances it would be better not to know that they had ever existed than see them disappear in front of one's eyes. Baudry himself turned out to have destroyed quite a lot of material — but I suspect there is more than he has yet let me see. Our situation is reminiscent of Henry James's story the Aspern Papers where a young American tries to tease out of an old lady in Venice some papers relating to a long-dead poet whom he had admired and with whom she had once had an affair.
The two of them embark on a complex and teasing relationship. In the end it comes down to whether he will marry her; he refuses at first; spends an anguished night wandering the streets of Venice; then decides to relent for the sake of the papers — but it is too late: she has burnt them.
Even your oldest friends seem to know so little about you. I was an absolute disciple of the Jesuits, and when I left my Jesuit school at eighteen I cried as I had never cried in my life before … Every time people have asked me questions about myself, I have applied that principle … I never responded to their accusations, I let them think what they wanted.
We should note at this point that there had been no previous tradition of homosexual organization in France, no equivalent of Magnus Hirschfeld's Scientific and Humanitarian Committee, founded in Germany in Of course one difference from Germany is that in France homosexuality was not illegal. The anti-sodomy laws had been abolished at the Revolution and there had been no legal discrimination against homosexuality in France since Oscar Wilde could not have been imprisoned in France. Many French writers, including Zola, refused to sign a petition for the mitigation of Wilde's sentence.
And homosexuals in France did not suffer only opprobrium. If homosexuality was seen as so threatening in late nineteenth-century France it was partly because it fuelled fears about national degeneration which were a European-wide phenomenon at this time. This fear was particularly intense in France because of the declining birth-rate. In no country was pro-natalism stronger, and it is obvious why pro-natalist rhetoric is latently and often explicitly anti-homosexual.
Of course France was also the country where the two towering literary figures of the first half of the century, Proust and Gide, were authors in whose work homosexuality occupies considerable space. Gide's celebrated defence of homosexuality, Corydon , first published under his own name in , was really a defence of pederasty, idealizing ancient Greece.
Even if it is true that to mention homosexuality is an improvement on silence, Proust and Gide were in this respect exceptional. More common was the case of Gide's friend Roger Martin du Gard, Nobel prize winner, whose homosexual novel Le Lieutenant-Colonel de Maour , was only published in — twenty-five years after his death. Paris did have a thriving homosexual sub-culture — based on gardens, the river banks, baths, bars, and urinals. Otherwise the main centres of homosexual sociability were Montmartre, Montparnasse and Pigalle.
The Paris police chief succeeded in getting the Magic City Balls closed in ; the French Communist Party, progressive on sexual issues in the s, adopted more conservative positions in the s. Gay Urban History since , ed. David Higgs, London, , pp. This law introduced a legal distinction between homosexual and heterosexual activity — raising the male age of consent for the former to twenty-one while it remained at fifteen for the latter. Historians have recently drawn attention to the continuities between the late Third Republic and the Vichy regime, and this measure certainly supports that model: the Vichy law was new, but the thinking behind it represented no break with the political climate of the late s.
Historians have also in recent years emphasized the continuities between Vichy and post-Liberation France, and here again the history of homosexuality offers no exception.
De Gaulle's provisional government in confirmed the Vichy measure of discrimination which became article paragraph 2 of the Penal Code. At least as far as the specific laws affecting them were concerned, for gay men was certainly no Liberation. This is not as surprising at it might seem initially. Pro-natalist discourse was omnipresent in as part of the project to rebuild French influence in the world. This dovetailed with the strong emphasis in the rhetoric of the Resistance on the values of masculinity and virility: France, prostrate and enfeebled for four years, must show herself to be vigorous again.
Two of the main political forces of post-Liberation France — the Communists and the Catholic MRP — whose influence came from their role in the Resistance, strongly embodied these sexual attitudes. The s in France witnessed an obsession with domesticity, family life and hygiene. This, then, was the context in which Baudry set about establishing Arcadie. While preparing the first issue of the review, he approached various literary figures known to be homosexual, but he was almost universally rebuffed. Gide, who might have been sympathetic, had died in Henri de Montherlant, frightened of his own shadow when it came to public admission of his homosexuality, did not reply.
Julien Green, whose entire oeuvre is a dramatization of the struggle between the flesh and the spirit, Catholicism and homosexuality, gave a polite brush-off. Given Green's almost legendary discretion this is hardly surprising. This was published, under the pseudonym Roger Veronaise, in the first number of Arcadie. For other negative reference to Arcadie see: Jouhandeau, Parousie. Journaliers xxii: fevrier —juillet , , p. Journaliers xxvii , , p. Mimeographed circular in my possession henceforth these circulars in my possession will be referenced: JTJ.
In fact the word seem to have been used first by the Dutchman Arendt van Sundhorst in Most of Baudry's initial core of collaborators were unknown figures. Almost all, apart from Baudry, wrote under pseudonyms. The review was sober; there were no photographs. This salutary experience reinforced his instinctive caution and his desire to avoid antagonizing the authorities.
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Merrick and Sibalis, pp. These names are worthy of mention to illustrate the point that Arcadie was at this time far from exclusively associated with the right. By the end of the decade Arcadie had about 5, subscribers. The government was granted full powers to take all necessary measures to combat it. This event caused a wave of panic among many French homosexuals. To be homosexual is not to prostitute oneself in the Place Pigalle nor to corrupt schoolboys.
It is about love, in one's body and soul, for our fellows … Socrates, Plato, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Gabriel Lorca, who were all homosexuals I cite six but I could cite a hundred were in no ways corrupters of youth. Even Gaullist France, however, could not remain indefinitely impervious to the s, and towards the end of the decade there were signs of liberalization — for example the legalization of contraceptive pill in — which offered a more propitious political climate for Arcadie.
Just at this moment, however, Arcadie was threatened by a new enemy: the emergence of a new style of politics in the wake of May And these organizations shared with the Stalinist French Communist Party, which they otherwise execrated, a belief that homosexuality was a bourgeois vice: revolutionary activists must subordinate their personal lives to the future of the revolution.
Although FHAR soon succumbed to sectarian disputes, nothing was ever quite the same again. Eribon, pp. So violently was Arcadie attacked at this time that for a period it feared a possible bomb attack from radical gay activists. In the late s, gay politics moved back in a more reformist direction as the radical movements collapsed, and Arcadie recovered some credit.
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But at that election in Baudry refused to endorse any of the candidates although Mitterrand had committed himself to the repeal of Article The article was indeed repealed by Mitterrand's government in July But Arcadie was no longer there to witness the event. The lease on the premises of the Club had expired, and Baudry had had enough. He announced in May that he was dissolving Arcadie. Interviewed by the radical gay magazine Gai pied , he was asked his opinion of contemporary homosexual life in America.
What had Arcadie achieved in the twenty-eight years of its existence? For many, it had provided a space of sociability, a network of relationships and friendships, more durable than those they might find in more commercial venues or cruising in parks and baths. It provided its members with a support structure — offering legal and medical advice, counselling, help in finding accommodation.
But it also armed them intellectually to resist the opprobrium heaped upon them.
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Displaying a very s faith in science, it introduced them to a massive corpus of sexological writings from Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis at the end of the nineteenth century, through to Kinsey in the s. It furnished them with alternative cultural baggage — uncovering, rediscovering, celebrating novels and plays and films ignored by the heterosexual mainstream. It also paid a lot of attention to history. History was often used rather crudely to trace the lives of celebrated homosexual or allegedly homosexual figures, and harness them to the contemporary cause.
There was a kind of historical first division including Michelangelo, Leonardo, Wilde, Tchaikovsky, Verlaine; a second division including Lorca, Theocritus, Catullus, Cavafy, Frederick the Great; and on the substitutes bench — those whose commitment to the team was more controversial — were figures like Lully, Shakespeare and Montaigne. But history was also used more interestingly to explore the varieties of the past and relativize the present.
Arcadie appealed to many different constituencies. There were those who, if they read the review at all, did not get much beyond the romantic or erotic stories. These contained fairly standard fare: the working-class comrade, the exotic foreigner, the muscular athlete, schoolboy romances, and so on. Then there were those who frequented the club because they wanted to dance, rather than attend the improving lectures. In fact, even the lectures were not necessarily as improving as Baudry believed.
It was aimed at society at large as part of a strategy to achieve for homosexuals the aim of integration into the non-homosexual majority. Although Arcadie eschewed activist politics, it believed in operating behind the scenes, cultivating the authorities and opinion-formers.