Born in the working-class district of Bethnal Green, London, he was the first of nine children. He left school at the age of thirteen and began work as an apprentice metal-worker at the Arsenal. He continued his education through attending a series of evening classes, studying French, German, Latin, music and art. In 1882 he passed the Civil Service exams and five years later passed the University of London matriculation exams. He joined the Foreign Office where he became a librarian.
Gray is best known today as an aesthetic poet of the 1890s and as a friend of Ernest Dowson, Aubrey Beardsley and Oscar Wilde. He was also a talented translator, bringing works by the French Symbolists Mallarmé, Verlaine, Laforgue and Rimbaud into English, often for the first time. He is purported to be the inspiration behind the title character in Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, but distanced himself from this rumor. It should also be noted that Wilde's story was serialised in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine a year before their relationship began. His relationship with Wilde was initially intense, but had cooled for over two years by the time of Wilde's imprisonment. The relationship appears to have been at its height in the period 1891-1893.
John Gray and Marc-Andre Raffalovich with a friend (Miss Gribbell) in the 1910
John Gray's life partner was Marc-Andre Raffalovich, a wealthy poet and early defender of homosexuality. Raffalovich himself became a Catholic in 1896. When Gray went to Edinburgh he settled nearby. 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.
Gray's first notable publication was a collection of verse called Silverpoints (1893), consisting of sixteen original poems and thirteen translations from Verlaine (7), Mallarmé (1), Rimbaud (2), and Baudelaire (3). In his review of it Richard Le Gallienne distinguished it from the output of many of the 'decadent' poets in its inability to accomplish "that gloating abstraction from the larger life of humanity that marks the decadent". Gray's second volume, Spiritual Poems, chiefly done out of several languages (1896), defined his developing identity as a Catholic aesthete. It contained eleven original poems and twenty-nine translations from Jacopone da Todi, Prudentius, Verlaine, Angelus Silesius, Notker Balbulus, St John of the Cross, and other poets both Catholic and Protestant. Gray's later works were mainly devotional and often dealt with various Christian saints. The Long Road (1926) contained his best-known poem, "The Flying Fish", an allegory which had first appeared in The Dial in 1896. Gray produced one novel, Park: A Fantastic Story (1932), a surreal futuristic allegory about Fr Mungo Park, a priest who, in a dream, wakes up in a Britain which has become a post-industrial paradise inhabited by black people who are all Catholics, with the degenerate descendants of the white population living below ground like rats. The novel is characterised by a vein of dry humour, as when a Dominican prior wonders if Park could have met Aquinas. Gray's collected poems, with extensive notes, were printed in a 1988 volume edited by English professor and 1890s expert Ian Fletcher.
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.
The critic, Valentine Cunningham, has described Gray as the "stereotypical poet of the nineties".
His great nephew is the alternative rock musician, Crispin Gray.
In the drama from the BBC’s Playhouse strand, Aubrey by John Selwyn Gilbert, broadcast in 1982, Raffalovich is played by Sandor Elès (left) and John Gray by Simon Shepherd (right)
Silverpoints (1893). Poems
The Blue Calendar (1895–1897). Poems
Spiritual Poems, chiefly done out of several languages (1896)
Ad Matrem: Fourteen Scenes in the Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1903). Poems
Vivis (1922). Poems
The Long Road (1926). Poems
Park: A Fantastic Story (1932). Manchester: Carcanet, 1985. ISBN 0-856355-38-0
The Poems of John Gray (edited by Ian Fletcher). Greensboro, North Carolina: ELT Press, 1988. ISBN 0-944318-00-2
The Selected Prose of John Gray (edited by Jerusha Hull McCormack). Greenboro, North Carolina: ELT Press, 1992. ISBN 0-944318-06-1
Marc-André Raffalovich (11 September 1864 – 14 February 1934) was a French poet and writer on homosexuality, best known today for his patronage of the arts and for his lifelong relationship with the poet, John Gray. (Picture: Marc-Andre Raffalovich As painted by A. Dampier May, 1886)
Raffalovich was born into a wealthy Jewish family, which moved from Odessa in the Ukraine to the French capital, Paris, in 1863. His brother, Arthur, became a noted Parisian financier and economist. André went up to study in Oxford in 1882 before settling down in London and opening a salon in the 1890s. Oscar Wilde attended, calling the event a saloon rather than a salon. This is where Raffalovich met the love and companion of his life, John Gray. In 1890, his sister Sophie married the Irish nationalist politician William O'Brien (1852-1928).
In 1894, Raffalovich started to contribute on the subject of homosexuality (unisexualité, as he called it) to the Archives de l'Anthropologie Criminelle, a prestigious revue founded in Lyon by Alexandre Lacassagne, a pioneer criminologist and professor of forensic medicine. He soon became recognised as an expert in the field, engaging in correspondence with other researchers throughout Europe.
His magnum opus, Uranisme et unisexualité: étude sur différentes manifestations de l'instinct sexuel was published in 1896. In 1897, he started working on Annales de l'unisexualité, and les Chroniques de l'unisexualité with the aim of cataloging everything published on the subject of homosexuality. These have proved useful to historians up to this day.
In 1896, under the influence of John Gray, Raffalovich embraced Catholicism and joined the tertiary order of the Dominicans as Brother Sebastian in honour of Saint Sebastian. At the same time Gray was ordained a priest. In 1905, Gray was appointed to the parish of St Patrick in the working class Cowgate area of Edinburgh. Raffalovich followed and settled down nearby, purchasing No. 9, Whitehouse Terrace. He contributed greatly to the cost of St Peter's Church in Morningside, Edinburgh, of which Gray was appointed the first parish priest. In Whitehouse Terrace, Raffalovich established a successful salon. His guests included Henry James, Lady Margaret Sackville, Compton Mackenzie, Max Beerbohm and Herbert Read.
There is a close link between Raffalovich's views on homosexuality and his Catholic beliefs. He had moved on from the contemporary vision of homosexuality as a "third sex" to consider it simply as an expression of human sexuality. He made the distinction between the born and the chosen inverts. He believed the former worth considering while the latter he thought to be mired in vice and perversion.
Raffalovich drew, however, a difference with heterosexuality based on the idea of vice and virtue. He regarded a heterosexual's destiny as marriage and starting a family, whereas a homosexual's duty, he believed, was to overcome and transcend his desires with artistic pursuits and spiritual - even mystical - friendships.
These views led him to clash with Magnus Hirschfeld and the members of the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, with Raffalovich accusing them of being propagandists for moral dissolution and of wanting to destroy whole generations. He even supported Germany's Paragraph 175 as a way to prevent total moral chaos.
Raffalovich's attempts to reconcile his homosexuality and his Catholic beliefs pushed him further into his criticism of the early gay liberation movement; in 1910, he finally stopped commenting altogether on the subject which had occupied such a place in his life. Instead, he focused on his Edinburgh salon and his support of young artists.
He died in 1934, the same year as his lifelong companion, John Gray.
Days 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)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=e
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=e
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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