October 9, 2020

A Trip Down a Gay Historical Rabbit hole via. Raffles

By aarondkey

I’ve got into Raffles via a Radio 4 adaptation, and a further purchase of the full audio books. My first feeling was that this was a slightly problematic but beautiful love story between Raffles and Bunny Manders. Problematic because the love seems mainly on the side of Bunny, an absolute devotion – whereas Raffles seems to provide the risk and pizazz in the relationship with a certain amount of loyalty.

I was concerned by the reference to Wilde as “that rotter” but reassured that the pressure came from outside pressures. Googling the author, he appeared to be friends with Oscar Wilde and his boyfriend Lord Alfred Douglas, in fact the two main characters were supposed to be based on these two, with a soupçon of Holmes and Watson. Hornung was Arthur Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law – married to his sister. He seemed to be at the very heart of stimulating Victorian society. Conan Doyle was supposed to have advised against creating an anti-hero, or as we would probably call them now a Super Villain but I’m glad Hornung ignored this advice. I am a little in love with Raffles myself and regret his ending on the slopes of Spion Kop (Boer War)? but it was inevitable – given the pressure on the author that he would try and make his ‘hero’ to be loyal to Queen and Country and, in the end, to be honourable, loyal and dead.

Then the last two stories in the tape are fan fiction written by Graham Greene in which Raffles didn’t die but was taken prisoner by the Boers, and eventually returned to Bunny. It was a happy addition in which Raffles was pardoned by Queen Victoria’s son, Bertie, and promises never to burgle again in England so he moves to France with Bunny. Lord Alfred Douglas’s dad – the Marquis of Queensbury – almost dies and is carted to a hospital specialising in skin and venereal diseases and revenge and honour is satisfied and our hero is retrieved.

The more I read the more I am intrigued. I am not a careful researcher because I am worried that the subject matter will depress me, and I usually skirt just the right side of Depression Street by careful control of the world around me. But this is my impression, although the law was against him Wilde would have been OK if he had had the opportunity to fall in love with anyone other than Lord Alfred Douglas. It was falling foul of the wrong man, Lord Alfred’s father, that seemed to have done for him. That is my unsupported and un-considered opinion – and that is as far as I am prepared to go down that rabbit hole.

These are my thoughts, such as they are. They will almost certainly be ignored as social media hates me but they are out there.

Another interesting and almost related fact down the same rainbow patterned rabbit hole was the school Hornung attended, Uppingham, (fifty years after Hornung left) had a Headmaster called Wolfenden. The youngest headmaster in the country at the time (28). A man who was instrumental in the decriminalisation of Homosexuality in the UK – a great man.

I’m leaving the rabbit hole now. I shouldn’t have come in here anyway with my claustrophobia and all.