Daley was avid for culture and began buying the sort of eclectic volumes sold cheaply from the boxes that stood outside booksellers' shops. Weekends were spent visiting London to explore theatres, cinemas, galleries, and concert halls. At the age of twenty-four he decided, almost on a whim, to join the Metropolitan Police force. He was not the most likely recruit, since he was inclined to plumpness and described himself as ‘well below average plain common sense; sexually both innocent and deplorable; honourable if not exactly honest; trusting; truthful; romantic and sentimental to the point of sloppiness’ (Daley, This Small Cloud, 78). The selection committee nevertheless judged him ‘a good type of chap—just what we want’, and he began training at Peel House in March 1925 (ibid., 77). Having passed his examinations, he was posted to ‘T’ division, based in Hammersmith, west London. His first beat was in Chiswick, but after a few months he was transferred to Hammersmith itself, a lively part of the capital where the police lived in comparative harmony with petty criminals, their relationship eased by small bribes. Daley, who was homosexual, and took no great pains to hide the fact, found himself attracted to the sharply dressed and cheeky young crooks who thronged the streets, and soon numbered several of them among his friends and lovers. When he was obliged to make arrests, most of these young men philosophically accepted it as a ‘fair cop’ and struck dramatic poses when their captor, a keen amateur photographer, snapped them as they were loaded into Black Marias.
It was while on his Hammersmith beat in 1925 that Daley met J. R. Ackerley, a local resident whose pioneering play about homosexuality, The Prisoners of War, then running in London, had impressed him. The two men struck up a conversation, probably had a brief sexual relationship, and became lifelong friends. Ackerley introduced Daley to E. M. Forster, with whom he embarked on an important but troubled love affair. Although Forster was delighted to accompany Daley on his beat and be introduced to his working-class associates, he was appalled by the policeman's recklessness and constitutional lack of discretion—Daley described ‘safety first’ as a ‘contemptible slogan’ (Daley, This Small Cloud, 6). The relationship foundered in 1932, but it had given Daley an entrée into the literary world, where he was painted by Duncan Grant and entertained people with his stories. Recognizing a skilled raconteur, Ackerley, then working as an assistant talks producer at the BBC, persuaded Daley to make some radio broadcasts about his life. ‘Not a happy one?’ was broadcast on the Home Service on 25 March 1929 and subsequently published in The Listener, as were several other talks on the police, his Lowestoft childhood, and other subjects. Daley sometimes spoke as an official representative of the Metropolitan Police, but it was thought politic for other talks, such as an enthusiastic account of criminal activity at London street markets, to be broadcast and published under the pseudonyms of Joe Daley and Harry Firman.
In 1935 Daley was transferred to Vine Street, but he preferred the suburbs to Soho, and was much happier when he was sent to Wandsworth early in the Second World War. ‘Wandsworth was full of lively, good-looking people who thought nothing of telling a policeman to get stuffed’, he recalled. ‘It was a marvellous place and I couldn't see myself making many arrests’ (Daley, This Small Cloud, 183). After the war he reluctantly took a temporary staff job, running a police recruitment centre in Beak Street, but he longed to get back to the streets. On 21 May 1950 he left the police to join the merchant navy as a master-at-arms. He was forty-nine. His new career was cut short by the onset of diabetes, which led to periods of depression. In 1957 he retired to Dorking, living at 78 Pixham Lane with his younger brother David.
During the 1940s Daley had tried writing short stories, and submitted them to Ackerley, who had become the literary editor of The Listener. None was ever published, partly because they were, characteristically, ‘rather near the knuckle’ (Letters, 63). After his retirement, on Ackerley's advice, Daley began writing a book of reminiscences. This was partly a therapeutic exercise: he had always been quick to take offence, even when none was intended, but as he wrote the book, he realized that he had in fact had a generally happy and fortunate life. This Small Cloud—the title refers to his homosexuality—was highly indiscreet about his own life and work, but he did not mention any of the famous people with whom he had been involved. This remarkable book is not only funny, touching, and self-deprecatory, but is an important social document. It was published posthumously in 1987, with an afterword by Clive Emsley, historian of the police. It was the only piece of writing that Daley did not destroy before his death, which occurred at Dorking General Hospital on 12 March 1971 as a result of his diabetes. Following cremation at Surrey and Sussex crematorium, Worth, his ashes were scattered at Box Hill, Surrey.
Source: Peter Parker, ‘Daley, Harry (1901–1971)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/60647, accessed 4 Nov 2014]
J. R. Ackerley (4 November 1896 – 4 June 1967; his full registered name was Joe Ackerley; Randolph was added later as a tribute to an uncle) was arts editor of The Listener, the weekly magazine of the BBC. He was also openly gay, a rarity in his time.
Ackerley's memoir My Father and Myself, begins: "I was born in 1896 and my parents were married in 1919." His father, Roger Ackerley, was a fruit merchant, known as the "Banana King" of London. Roger had been previously married to an actress named Louise Burckhardt who died young and childless, probably of tuberculosis, in 1892.
Shortly afterward, he met another actress named Janetta Aylward (known as Netta) in Paris, and the two of them moved in together in London. Three years later she gave birth to a boy, Peter, then Joe a year later, and Nancy in 1899. Peter's birth, and possibly Joe's and Nancy's as well, was the result of an "accident" according to Joe's Aunt Bunny, Netta's sister: "Your father happened to have run out of French letters that day," she said. Roger Ackerley had "a cavalier attitude towards contraception."
Ackerley was educated at Rossall School, a public and preparatory school in Fleetwood, Lancashire. While at this school he discovered he was attracted to other boys. His striking good looks earned him the nickname "Girlie" but he was not sexually active, or only very intermittently, as a schoolboy. He described himself as
a chaste, puritanical, priggish, rather narcissistic little boy, more repelled than attracted to sex, which seemed to me a furtive, guilty, soiling thing, exciting, yes, but nothing whatever to do with those feelings which I had not yet experienced but about which I was already writing a lot of dreadful sentimental verse, called romance and love.Failing his entrance examinations for Cambridge University, Ackerley applied for a commission in the Army, and as World War I was in full swing, he was accepted immediately as a Second Lieutenant and assigned to the 8th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, part of the 18th Division, then stationed in East Anglia. In June 1915 he was sent over to France. The following summer he was wounded at the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. He was shot in the arm and an explosion caused shards of a whiskey bottle in his bag to be imbedded in his side. He lay wounded in a shell-hole for six hours but was eventually rescued by British troops and sent home for a period of sick-leave.
He soon volunteered to go back to the front. He had been promoted to captain by now and so, in December 1916, when his older brother Peter arrived in France, Ackerley was his superior officer. Reportedly the cheerful and kind-hearted Peter was not resentful and saluted his brother "gladly and conscientiously." In February, 1917, Peter was wounded in action on a dangerous assignment, heading into No man's land from a dangerous ditch (where Ackerley said goodbye to him) ominously called the "Boom Ravine." Though Peter managed to get back to the British lines, Ackerley never saw him again.
In May 1917 Ackerley led an attack in the Arras region where he was again wounded, this time in the buttock and thigh. Again he was obliged to wait for help in a shell-hole, but this time the Germans arrived first and he was taken prisoner. Being an officer, his internment camp was located in neutral Switzerland and was rather comfortable. Here he began his play, The Prisoners of War, which deals with the cabin fever of captivity and the frustrated longings he experienced for another English prisoner. He was not repatriated to England until after the war ended.
On 7 August 1918, two months before the end of hostilities, Peter Ackerley was killed in battle Peter's death haunted Ackerley his entire life. Ackerley suffered from survivor's guilt and thought his father might have preferred his death to his brother's. One result of Peter's death was that Roger and Netta got married in 1919, reportedly because Peter had died "a bastard".
After the war Ackerley returned to England and attended Cambridge. Scant evidence remains from this time in his life as Ackerley wrote little about it. He moved to London and continued to write and enjoy the cosmopolitan delights of the capital. He met E. M. Forster and other literary bright lights, but was lonely despite a plenitude of sexual partners. With his play having trouble finding a producer, and feeling generally adrift and distant from his family, Ackerley turned to Forster for guidance.
Forster got him a position as secretary to the Maharaja of Chhatarpur who he knew from writing A Passage to India. Ackerley spent about five months in India, still under British rule, and met a number of Anglo-Indians for whom he developed a strong distaste. The recollections of this time are the basis for his comic memoir Hindoo Holiday. The Maharaja was also homosexual, and His Majesty's obsessions and dalliances, along with Ackerley's observations about Anglo-Indians, account for much of the humor of the work.
Back in England, Prisoners of War was finally produced to some acclaim. Its run began at The Three Hundred Club on 5 July 1925, then transferred to The Playhouse on 31 August. Ackerley capitalized on his success, carousing with London's theatrical crowd, and through Cambridge friends met the actor John Gielgud, and other rising stars of the stage.
In 1928, Ackerley joined the staff of the BBC, then a year old, in the "Talks" Department, where prominent personalities gave radio lectures. He was Literary Editor of the BBC's magazine The Listener from 1935-59 discovering and promoting many young writers, including Philip Larkin, W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, and Christopher Isherwood. Ackerley was one of Francis King's two mentors (the other being C. H. B. Kitchin).
In October 1929 Roger Ackerley died of tertiary syphilis. After his death, his son discovered his father had a second family who he visited occasionally when supposedly travelling for business, and when walking the family dog. The mother of this second family was Muriel Perry, who had served as a nurse during World War I. She had three daughters, Ackerley's half-sisters- Sally, Elizabeth, and Diana. They thought Roger was their uncle, their much-loved "Uncle Bodger" who brought them gifts and money, though they began to suspect he was their father as they grew older. Sally, later Duchess of Westminster, and Elizabeth were twins, born in 1909. Diana was born in 1912.
Shortly after Roger's death, Ackerley found a note in a sealed envelope addressed to him which ended:
I am not going to make any excuses, old man. I have done my duty towards everybody as far as my nature would allow and I hope people generally will be kind to my memory. All my men pals know of my second family and of their mother, so you won't find it difficult to get on their track.Ackerley had met Muriel during his father's final illness and recalled hearing her spoken of over the years. Roger wanted Joe to look after his second family and he did so, without ever divulging their existence to his highly strung mother, who died in 1946. In 1975 Diana Perry, now Diana Petre, wrote a memoir of her life called The Secret Orchard of Roger Ackerley. The term "secret orchard" was Roger Ackerley's, from one of his final notes to his son. Ackerley's relationship with his father was something of an obsession. There had always been tension between them, stemming from the son's covert homosexuality and his father's domineering personality. My Father and Myself explores the possibility that Roger had some homosexual experience as a young guardsman, but this was ultimately never proven.
Ackerley spent the last 24 years of his life in a small flat overlooking the Thames, at Putney. Almost all his significant work was produced during this period. He had a stable job at the BBC, and the unsatisfying promiscuity of his younger years faded. What remained was his search for what he called an "Ideal Friend". Instead he accepted financial responsibility for his unstable sister Nancy and his aging Aunt Bunny. More importantly, in 1946 (the year his mother died) he acquired an Alsatian bitch named Queenie from a sometime-lover, Freddie Doyle, who was going to prison for burglary. This scene, with Ackerley visiting Freddie at the police station, is how Ackerely's only novel, We Think the World of You, begins. ("Johnny" in the novel is closely modelled on Freddie.)
Over the next decade, Queenie was Ackerley's primary companion. His reduced social obligations made these years his most productive, revising Hindoo Holiday (1952), completing My Dog Tulip (1956), We Think the World of You (1960) and working on drafts of My Father and Myself.
Ackerley left the BBC in 1959. He visited Japan in 1960 to visit his friend Francis King, and was very taken with the beauty of the scenery and even more with Japanese men.
On 30 October 1961 Queenie died. Ackerley, who had lost a brother and both parents, described it as "the saddest day of my life." He said: "I would have immolated myself as a suttee when Queenie died. For no human would I ever have done such a thing, but by my love for Queenie I would have been irresistibly compelled." In 1962, We Think the World of You won the W. H. Smith Literary Award, which came with a substantial cash prize, but even this did little to stir him from his grief. (He thought Richard Hughes should have won, and also thought little of the award's previous recipients.)
In the years after Queenie's death, Ackerly worked on his memoir about his father and drank too much gin. His sister Nancy found him dead in his bed on the morning of 4 June 1967. Ackerley's biographer Peter Parker gives the cause of death as coronary thrombosis.
Toward the end of his life, Ackerley sold 1075 letters that Forster had sent him since 1922, receiving some £6000, "a sum of money which will enable Nancy and me to drink ourselves carelessly into our graves," as he put it. Ackerley did not live long enough to enjoy the money from these letters, but the sum, plus the royalties from Ackerley's existing works and several published posthumously, allowed Nancy to live on in relative comfort until her death in 1979. The annual J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography was endowed by funds from Nancy, starting in 1982.
Ackerly was openly gay, at least after his parents' deaths, having realized his homosexuality while interned in Switzerland as a prisoner of war. Ackerley worked hard to plumb the depths of his sexuality in his writings and belonged to a circle of notable literary homosexuals that flouted convention, specifically the homophobia that kept gay men in the closet or exposed openly gay men to persecution.
While he never found the "Ideal Friend" he wrote of so often, he had a number of long-term relationships. Ackerley was a "twank," a term used by sailors and guardsmen to describe a man who paid for their sexual services, and he describes in detail the ritual of picking up and entertaining a young guardsman, sailor or labourer. Forster warned him, "Joe, you must give up looking for gold in coal mines."
My Father and Myself serves as a guide to the understanding of the sexuality of a gay man of Ackerley's generation. W. H. Auden, in his review of My Father and Myself, speculates that Ackerley enjoyed the "brotherly" sexual act of mutual masturbation rather than penetration. Ackerley described himself as "quite impenetrable."
The Prisoners of War (first performed 5 July 1925), a play about Captain Conrad's comfortable captivity in Switzerland during World War I. Conrad is tortured by his longing for the attractive young Lieutenant Grayle. Contains the memorable bon mot when a Mme. Louis refers to "the fair sex" and Conrad replies, "The fair sex? And which sex is that?" Ackerley claimed to prefer the title The Interned to The Prisoners of War.
Hindoo Holiday (1932, revised and expanded 1952), a memoir of Ackerley's brief engagement as secretary to an Indian Maharaja in the city of Chhatarpur, called Chhokrapur (meaning "City of Boys", a joke of Ackerley's) in the book. The spelling of Hindoo was the publisher's choice. Ackerley preferred Hindu.
My Dog Tulip (1956), an account of living with his dog Queenie. Eventually his relationship with Queenie becomes all-consuming and pushes aside most of his human relationships. The dog's name was changed to Tulip when the editors of Commentary, who had purchased an excerpt, became concerned that using the dog's real name might encourage jokes about Ackerley's sexuality. A 2009 animated feature based on this book featuring Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave and Isabella Rossellini was made.
We Think the World of You (1960), Ackerley's only novel, which concerns the relationship between an educated middle class man based closely on himself and a working class London family. The story is built around a fictionalized account of how Ackerley acquired Queenie (called "Evie" in the book) and learned to live with her. The book also traces the largely frustrated relationship between the homosexual narrator and Evie's (mostly) heterosexual former owner. The novel was made into a motion picture in 1988 starring Alan Bates and Gary Oldman.
My Father and Myself (1968), published posthumously. It is a memoir of Ackerley's life and relationship with his father. Along with a memoir by Ackerley's half-sister Diana, it was the source of the 1979 TV movie Secret Orchards.
My Sister and Myself (1982), published posthumously. Selections from Ackerley's diary, edited by Francis King. The bulk focuses on Ackerley's difficulties with his sister Nancy West (née Ackerley), but there is also a long section about Ackerley and Queenie's difficult stay with Siegfried Sassoon, the model for "Captain Pugh" in My Dog Tulip.
Somewhat ironically, as he himself endured his captivity quite placidly, Ackerley was chosen to edit and write the introduction to Escapers All, 15 first-person accounts of World War I POW camp escapees (published by The Bodley Head in 1932).
Ackerley wrote a short biography of his friend E. M. Forster, called E.M. Forster: A Portrait, which was published posthumously in 1970.
A volume of his poems, Micheldever and Other Poems, was published posthumously in 1972. He was one of the poets included in Poems by Four Authors (1923).
Ackerley's letters were published posthumously as The Ackerley Letters, edited by Neville Braybrooke, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975.
In the United States, his books are published solely by New York Review Books Classics.
All of the early 20th Century’s books by J.R. Ackerley are worth reading. But none are as complex and delicious as Hindoo Holiday, a memoir slash travel book. Ackerly was invited by the middle-aged, immensely wealthy, Shakespeare-obsessed Rajah of Chhondrapur in India to come tutor his teenaged actor boyfriend in English literature and to help run their version of the Royal Shakespeare Theater’s tour of India. The clash of cultures and personalities is by turns perplexing, hilarious and sour-sweet sad. --Felice PicanoDays of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
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Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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