Outing Abe

Also Adolf, Jesus, Eleanor, Robin Hood, and Other Historic Greats

Yet these sensible objections are complicated by an anecdote that a musician friend has shared with me, a story he heard from the gay poet W.H. Auden. Auden had found himself at a social event with the author of "The Waste Land" and told Eliot that, while delivering a lecture at an American university, he had seen graffiti in a bathroom that read, "W.H. Auden Loves T.S. Eliot." Eliot replied, "That's alright—I'm one-third that way myself." The story suggests any number of possibilities, all of them intriguing. Was the comment meant as a profound self-revelation about the poet's life? Was it a casual confession of bisexuality, delivered in a spirit of friendly camaraderie? Did the percentage that Eliot assigned to his sexuality refer to periods in Eliot's life or to what he considered an essential component of his makeup? Of course, the percentage will satisfy no one who wishes to "resolve" the question of Eliot's erotic preferences.

When it comes to the ever shifting opacities of erotic desire, evidence can be very elusive. It is worth recalling that when Jerry Falwell outed Tinky Winky as homosexual, the Teletubbies' spokespeople demonstrated an admirable precision in the game of revelation and decoding. "It's not a purse," one of them dryly admonished reporters after Falwell charged that Tinky Winky had a telltale carryall. "It's a magic bag."


Illustration: Patrick Arrasmith
Illustration: Patrick Arrasmith

Details

The Queer Issue's Table of Contents

Richard Kaye teaches English at Hunter College and is the author of The Flirt's Tragedy: Desire Without End in Victorian and Edwardian Fiction (Virginia, 2002).


Research assistance: E. Timothy Martin

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