Wednesday, October 18, 2017

325. Gay Pride

There are quite a few websites posting information on Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon as a gay couple, which, historically and factually, poses a few problems of interpretation. Presumption, projection, and suggestion may blossom as there is a lack of evidence. Ricketts was a gay man, and although he never talked about his sexual orientation in public, there is enough evidence of his activities and his preferences. Shannon may have been gay in his early years, but eventually turned out to be a heterosexual, and his lithographs testify of that. 

Michael Field, Wild Honey (1908): cover designed by Charles Ricketts
In June, for Pride Month in New York, the Fales Library & Special Collections posted some images of book covers designed by Charles Ricketts.

The introduction to this posting argued their gay identity by using concepts as 'partner', 'lived together', and 'queer luminaries' in order to emphasize their gayness as a couple. However, no collaborative works by Ricketts and Shannon were chosen to illustrate this. The images were of cover designs for books by Ricketts for Oscar Wilde, Thomas Hardy, and Michael Field:

'Ricketts founded the literary journal The Dial in 1889 with his partner Charles Shannon. Shannon and Ricketts lived together at Ricketts’s Chelsea home, The Vale, after which Ricketts’s press took its name. Ricketts associated and worked with late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century queer luminaries of the Aesthetic movement such as Aubrey Beardsley and Oscar Wilde; Beardsley and Ricketts both designed and/or illustrated editions of Wilde works.'

The phrase 'Ricketts's Chelsea home' suggests that he was the main inhabitant, while, in truth both artists had rented the home, and other occupants and fellow artists needed to live there in order for them to afford the rent.

It is good to honour one's heroes, but it is hard to acknowledge facts. In general, the intentions of the introductory text are quite sympathetic even if almost every sentence contains a slip of the pen.