elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Peter Wildeblood (May 19, 1923 – November 14, 1999)

Peter Wildeblood (19 May 1923 – 14 November 1999) was a British-Canadian journalist, novelist, playwright, and gay rights campaigner. He was one of the first men in the UK to publicly declare his homosexuality.

Peter Wildeblood was born in Alassio, on the Italian Riviera, in 1923. He was the only child of Henry Seddon Wildeblood (b. 1863), a retired engineer from the Indian Public Works Department, and his much younger second wife, Winifred Isabel, née Evans, the daughter of a sheep rancher in Argentina. He was brought up in his parents' cottage near Ashdown Forest. His mother was considerably younger than his father, and Wildeblood later wondered if the fact had affected his development.

Wildeblood won a scholarship to Radley College and then went to Trinity College, Oxford in 1941, but almost immediately volunteered for the Royal Air Force during World War II and trained as a pilot in Rhodesia, However, after a series of crashes he was grounded and instead became an RAF meteorologist, still in Rhodesia. After the war he resumed his place at Trinity College where he gravitated towards a homosexual circle in the theatre and arts.

After Oxford Wildeblood turned to journalism, writing for the Daily Mail's regional office in Leeds, then in Fleet Street itself, first as the royal correspondent, then as its diplomatic correspondent. At this time Wildeblood began a passionate affair with an RAF corporal called Edward NcNally and had written him a series of passionate love letters. It was these letters which proved a crucial part of the evidence leading to Wildeblood's later conviction for conspiracy to incite acts of gross indecency.

In the summer of 1953, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu had offered Wildeblood the use of a beach hut near his country estate. Wildeblood brought with him two young RAF servicemen, his lover Edward McNally and John Reynolds. The foursome were joined by Montagu's cousin Michael Pitt-Rivers. At the subsequent trial the two airmen turned Queen's Evidence, and claimed there had been dancing and 'abandoned behaviour' at the gathering. Wildeblood said it had in fact been 'extremely dull'. Montagu claims that it was all remarkably innocent, saying: 'We had some drinks, we danced, we kissed, that's all.'

Arrested on 9 January 1954, in March of that year Wildeblood was brought before the British courts charged with 'conspiracy to incite certain male persons to commit serious offences with male persons' (or 'buggery'). Wildeblood was charged along with Lord Montagu and Michael Pitt-Rivers, and during the course of the trial he admitted his homosexuality to the court. Montagu received a 12 months sentence, while Wildeblood and Pitt-Rivers were sentenced to 18 months in prison as a result of these and other charges, which led eventually to the Wolfenden Report, which in 1957 recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK.

He published a significant work, Against the Law, in 1955: an account which detailed his experiences at the hands of the law and the British establishment; brought to light the appalling conditions in Wormwood Scrubs (HM Prison); and encouraged campaigns for prison — and homosexual — reform. C.H. Rolph wrote in the New Statesman that it was "the noblest, and wittiest, and most appalling prison book of them all". To Wildeblood, "it was merely part of the story which had been implicit in me from the day when I was born".

After the trial and his subsequent imprisonment, Wildeblood became a television producer and writer and was involved in a number of productions (notably for Granada Television and then CBC Toronto) throughout the 1960s and 70s. Wildeblood wrote the book and lyrics, to Peter Greenwell's music, for the London musical The Crooked Mile, an avant-garde piece of 1959, set in the Soho underworld. He also chose to campaign publicly for the rights of gays by testifying before the Wolfenden Committee and the House of Lords.

His role in the decriminalisation of homosexuality which occurred in 1967 was explored in the Channel Four documentary 'A Very British Sex Scandal'.

In 1994, Wildeblood suffered a stroke which left him speechless and a quadriplegic.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Wildeblood

Further Readings:

Against the Law: The Classic Account of a Homosexual in 1950s Britain (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 50th Anniversary List) by Peter Wildeblood
Hardcover: 200 pages
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicholson; New Ed edition (October 28, 1999)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0297643827
ISBN-13: 978-0297643821
Amazon: Against the Law: The Classic Account of a Homosexual in 1950s Britain

Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957 (The Chicago Series on Sexuality, History, and Society) by Matt Houlbrook
Paperback: 398 pages
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (October 15, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0226354628
ISBN-13: 978-0226354620
Amazon: Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957

In August 1934, young Cyril L. wrote to his friend Billy about all the exciting men he had met, the swinging nightclubs he had visited, and the vibrant new life he had forged for himself in the big city. He wrote, "I have only been queer since I came to London about two years ago, before then I knew nothing about it." London, for Cyril, meant boundless opportunities to explore his newfound sexuality. But his freedom was limite: he was soon arrested, simply for being in a club frequented by queer men.

Cyril's story is Matt Houlbrook's point of entry into the queer worlds of early twentieth-century London. Drawing on previously unknown sources, from police reports and newspaper exposés to personal letters, diaries, and the first queer guidebook ever written, Houlbrook here explores the relationship between queer sexualities and modern urban culture that we take for granted today. He revisits the diverse queer lives that took hold in London's parks and streets; its restaurants, pubs, and dancehalls; and its Turkish bathhouses and hotels—as well as attempts by municipal authorities to control and crack down on those worlds. He also describes how London shaped the culture and politics of queer life—and how London was in turn shaped by the lives of queer men. Ultimately, Houlbrook unveils the complex ways in which men made sense of their desires and who they were. In so doing, he mounts a sustained challenge to conventional understandings of the city as a place of sexual liberation and a unified queer culture.

A history remarkable in its complexity yet intimate in its portraiture, Queer London is a landmark work that redefines queer urban life in England and beyond.

“A ground-breaking work. While middle-class lives and writing have tended to compel the attention of most historians of homosexuality, Matt Houlbrook has looked more widely and found a rich seam of new evidence. It has allowed him to construct a complex, compelling account of interwar sexualities and to map a new, intimate geography of London.”—Matt Cook, The Times Higher Education Supplement

Winner of History Today’s Book of the Year Award, 2006

A Gay History of Britain: Love and Sex Between Men Since the Middle Ages by Matt Cook
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Praeger (June 30, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1846450020
ISBN-13: 978-1846450020
Amazon: A Gay History of Britain: Love and Sex Between Men Since the Middle Ages

The book explores the changing ways in which male-male sex and love have been perceived and experienced from the late Anglo-Saxon period to the present. Celebrated figures, such as Richard Lionheart, whose love for Philip Augustus of France was so well-documented, Oscar Wilde, gubject of the most explosive scandal of the Victorian period, and Derek Jarman, the great artist and chronicler of the age of AIDS, are examined alongside little-known figures: Eleanor/John Rykener, a cross-dresser in Chaucer's England, the mollies of eighteenth-century London, the habituants of underground gay bars and cafes in 1930s Manchester and Brighton, and the newly-confident gays of contemporary Britain, who marry, adopt children and command the increasingly powerful 'pink pound'. Drawing on a fabulous wealth of research, the authors - each an expert in his field - have worked closely together to deliver a powerful, highly-readable and eye-opening history of love and desire between men in Britain.

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Tags: author: peter wildeblood, gay classics

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