Amazon Kindle, UK

Friday, 2 March 2012

John Gray (1866 – 1934), UK

b. 2 March 1866
d. 14 June 1934

English poet, who may have been the inspiration behind Oscar Wilde's fictional Dorian Gray. His life partner was Marc André Raffalovich, also a poet and a notable early defender of homosexuality - which he called "unisexuality", but insisted remained at its best when chaste. Gray and Raffalovich both converted to Catholicism, and Gray was ordained a Catholic priest in 1901. After Gray was moved to a parish in Edinburgh, Raffalovich followed him. The pair continued in a close, but chaste relationship until they died four months apart in 1934

Like many of the artists of that period, Gray was a convert to Roman Catholicism. He was baptised on 14th February 1890, but soon lapsed. Wilde's trial appears to have prompted some intense soul-searching in Gray and he re-embraced Catholicism in 1895.In 1896 he gave this reversion poetic form in his volume Spiritual Poems: chiefly done out of several languages. He left his position at the Foreign Office and on 28 November 1898, at the age of 32, he entered the Scots College, Rome, to study for the priesthood. He was ordained by Cardinal Pietro Respighi at St John Lateran on 21 December 1901.He served as a priest in Edinburgh, first at Saint Patrick's and then as rector at Saint Peter's.

His most important supporter, and life partner, was Marc-André Raffalovich, a wealthy poet and early defender of homosexuality. Raffalovich himself became a Catholic in 1896 and joined the tertiary order of Dominicans. When Gray went to Edinburgh he settled nearby. He helped finance St Peter's Church in Morningside where Gray would serve as priest for the rest of his life. The two maintained a chaste relationship until Raffalovich's sudden death in 1934. A devastated Gray died exactly four months later at St. Raphael's nursing home in Edinburgh after a short illness.

Some queer historians note that in the period, the Catholic Church may have functioned as a cover, a convenient closet, for private sexual activities hiding behind a public facade of celibacy. Tirza True Latimer, for instance, writing on "The Closet" at, names Gray and Raffalovich as a notable example:

The decadent poet John Gray (allegedly the prototype for Wilde's Dorian Gray) and his lover André Raffalovich converted to Catholicism, for example. Gray went so far as to take the vows of priesthood. Raffalovich converted Wilde's illustrator Aubrey Beardsley to Catholicism. Even Wilde ultimately converted to Catholicism.
Max Nordau, whose treatise Degeneration made best seller lists in England in the wake of Wilde's prosecution, unmasked what he called "neo-Catholicism" as the "most distinctive stigmata of the degenerate," identifying the Catholic church as a kind of closet.

No comments:

Post a Comment