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Edward Prime-Stevenson Irenæus (Madison, January 29, 1858 - Lausanne, July 23, 1942) was an American writer and journalist.

He was the first American writer to publish an openly gay novel with the pen-name of Xavier Mayne.

Edward Prime-Stevenson was born on January 23, 1858 in Madison, New Jersey, the youngest of five children; his father was a Presbyterian priest and dean of the school and his mother was from a family of writers.

After classical studies he went to law studies that did not ever translate into a job. He chose to write immediately devoting to fiction, poetry and music criticism. He worked with major magazines such as Harper's and The Independent, New York.

At 19 years old he successfully began publishing children's books such as White Cockades (1887) and Left to Themselves (1891), both focused on close homoerotic friendships among adolescent. His name, among other authors of success, was listed in the first edition of Who's Who in America (1899-1900).

In 1901, Prime-Stevenson moved to Europe where he began to write openly homosexual texts using the pen-name of Xavier Mayne.

In 1906 his novel Imre: A Memorandum was privately printed by the publisher Rispoli in Naples. The script, the first by an American author, openly and positively speaks about homosexuality. In 1908, Prime-Stevenson, always under a pseudonym and always in Naples, give to the press an essay on sexology The Intersexes: A History of Similisexualism as Problem in Social Life. The text is a defense of homosexuality in scientific, legal, historical and personal perspective.

Of his European stay, between Lausanne and Florence, very little is known. It is certain that he was in Capri where he met Jacques d'Adelsward-Fersen to whom he dedicated the story La biblioteca di Dayneford published in Pagine passate di mano in mano by Mark Mitchell and David Leavitt, who is the only work translated into Italian by this author.

Prime-Stevenson published, under his real name, a collection of short stories, Her Enemy, Some Friends, and other Personage in 1913, which contain numerous references and information about homosexuality.

His production went slowing (two Florentine printers published one of his work on music and a book of short stories) over the years and stopped with the death of the author for heart attack in Lausanne, Switzerland.

His obituary in The New York Times remembers him as a writer and music critic.

Source: (in Italian)

Further Readings:

Imre: A Memorandum (Broadview Literary Texts) by Edward Prime-Stevenson, edited by James J. Gifford
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Broadview Press; 1 edition (January 2, 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1551113589
ISBN-13: 978-1551113586
Amazon: Imre: A Memorandum (Broadview Literary Texts)

Imre is one of the first openly gay American novels with a happy ending. Described by the author as "a little psychological romance," the narrative follows two men who meet by chance in a café; in Budapest, where they forge a friendship that leads to a series of mutual revelations and gradual disclosures. With its sympathetic characterizations of homosexual men, Imre's 1906 publication marked a turning point in English literature. This edition includes material relating to the novels origins, contemporary writings on homosexuality, other writings by Prime-Stevenson, and a contemporary review.

The Crimson Letter: Harvard, Homosexuality, and the Shaping of American Culture by Douglass Shand-Tucci
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; First St. Martin's Griffin Edition edition (June 1, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312330901
ISBN-13: 978-0312330903
Amazon: The Crimson Letter: Harvard, Homosexuality, and the Shaping of American Culture

In a book deeply impressive in its reach while also deeply embedded in its storied setting, bestselling historian Douglass Shand-Tucci explores the nature and expression of sexual identity at America’s oldest university during the years of its greatest influence. The Crimson Letter follows the gay experience at Harvard in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, focusing upon students, faculty, alumni, and hangers-on who struggled to find their place within the confines of Harvard Yard and in the society outside.

Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde were the two dominant archetypes for gay undergraduates of the later nineteenth century. One was the robust praise-singer of American democracy, embraced at the start of his career by Ralph Waldo Emerson; the other was the Oxbridge aesthete whose visit to Harvard in 1882 became part of the university’s legend and lore, and whose eventual martyrdom was a cautionary tale. Shand-Tucci explores the dramatic and creative oppositions and tensions between the Whitmanic and the Wildean, the warrior poet and the salon dazzler, and demonstrates how they framed the gay experience at Harvard and in the country as a whole.

The core of this book, however, is a portrait of a great university and its community struggling with the full implications of free inquiry. Harvard took very seriously its mission to shape the minds and bodies of its charges, who came from and were expected to perpetuate the nation’s elite, yet struggled with the open expression of their sexual identities, which it alternately accepted and anathematized. Harvard believed it could live up to the Oxbridge model, offering a sanctuary worthy of the classical Greek ideals of male association, yet somehow remain true to its legacy of respectable austerity and Puritan self-denial.

The Crimson Letter therefore tells stories of great unhappiness and manacled minds, as well as stories of triumphant activism and fulfilled promise. Shand-Tucci brilliantly exposes the secrecy and codes that attended the gay experience, showing how their effects could simultaneously thwart and spark creativity. He explores in particular the question of gay sensibility and its effect upon everything from symphonic music to football, set design to statecraft, poetic theory to skyscrapers.

The Crimson Letter combines the learned and the lurid, tragedy and farce, scandal and vindication, and figures of world renown as well as those whose influence extended little farther than Harvard Square. Here is an engrossing account of a university transforming and transformed by those passing through its gates, and of their enduring impact upon American culture.


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