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The Garish Spectacles of Gay Pride Month
Would would Oscar Wilde, E.M. Forster, and W.H. Auden have thought about it?
By JOHN LEAKE
I used to spend a lot of time in Italy. As an ex-pat in “the land where the lemon trees bloom,” I was naturally interested in literature written by notable ex-pats in history. I began with E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View, and then a Penguin Classics edition of Goethe’s Italian Journey, translated by W.H. Auden, who also wrote the introduction. Other notable books included A Death in Venice, by Thomas Mann, Then and Now by Somerset Maugham, and The Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar. All of these authors were drawn to Italy’s extraordinary beauty and high culture, and all (except for Goethe) were gay.
My favorite place in Italy in the Island of Capri in the Bay of Naples. During the early 20th Century, it was home to wealthy ex-pats such as Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen, who built the Villa Lysis, and Friedrich Alfred Krupp, who regularly spent about four months of the year at the Hotel Quisisana. Like me, they loved the extraordinary beauty of the place. Both men were hounded by scandal for their homosexuality, and both ultimately committed suicide.
Nowadays we look back with horror at the harsh persecution of men like Oscar Wilde (who was sentenced to two years in prison) and Alan Turing (sentenced to chemical castration) for their homosexuality. However, I wonder what the above writers and aesthetes would have thought about Gay Pride Month, with all of its garish, brazen spectacles.
Wilde once famously remarked: “In matters of great importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.” At first glance, it may seem that he was being foppish with this remark. However, I believe he was actually making a profound and often overlooked point. People who have a good sense of style in their manners and speech are far more persuasive than pushy, urgent, in-your-face people, no matter how sincere the latter may be. And what could be more unattractive than sincere expressions of pride?