Sympathy

Havelock Ellis

The sexual embrace can only be compared with music and with prayer.” — Havelock Ellis

Havelock Ellis was an English physician, writer and social reformer who studied human sexuality. In 1897, he co-wrote the first medical textbook in English on homosexuality, and also published works on a variety of sexual practices and inclinations.

Looking back in 1933, Quentin Pan noted, “Sex as a normal phenomenon suitable for observation and analysis was practically unknown until Mr. Ellis came upon the scene. Throughout his studies, Mr. Ellis maintained an attitude of sympathy, a desire to understand wherever deviations from the normal occur, and where treatment is suggested, he was particularly careful in avoidance of extremes.”

Imagine Anthony Comstock approaching sexuality with sympathy and understanding. I cannot. But Havelock Ellis was in England, out of reach. And the F.A. Davis Company was a reputable publisher in Philadelphia. Who was left?

In July of 1913, Anthony Comstock arrested Louis Kleuber, the manager of a rare book store on Wall Street, for selling Ellis’ Erotic Symbolism. Kleuber was found guilty and sentenced to 30 days in jail or a fine of $250. He paid the fine, half of which went to the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, as did half of all such fines.

But Comstock was not done. At the Ellis hearing in the Court of Special Sessions he took the occasion to say that if the recently published [John D.] Rockefeller Commission Report on White Slavery was “sent out indiscriminately,” he would make a fight against that as well.

He did not.

***

Quentin Pan (Pan Guangdan), “Havelock Ellis as a Humanist” in The China Critic (1933)

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