1880-03-01

LYTTON STRACHEY, author, was born on this date.  Lytton Strachey is not only the author of Eminent Victorians, one of the most popular books of its day, but also one of the liveliest rejoinders in Gay history.

As a conscientious objector is WWI, he was asked what he’d do if a Hun were to rape his sister. “I’d throw myself between them,” he replied, with uncharacteristic generosity (His sister, Dorothy, incidentally, was a Lesbian.) Because he was such a wit, and because of his battles with John Maynard Keynes over Rupert Brooke, Duncan Grant, and other young men, Strachey is sometimes seen as a bit of an effete twit.

But he was experienced enough to tell E.M. Forster that the sexual relationship between the two main characters in Maurice was “rather diseased.” All they ever did, he complained, was masturbate together (all that their creator knew to do, by the way). Strachey thought that there were more interesting things to do, and one of the people with whom he did them was Alan Searle, who eventually became the companion of W. Somerset Maugham. Strachey called young Searle his “little Bronzino,” and passed him on to Maugham. Years later, when Searle was sent for to live with the elderly writer, Maugham took one look at what twenty years and pounds had done to Searle and said, “My dear, you used to be quite a dish; now you’re quite a tureen.”