Role models of greatness.
Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Man Crush
In his junior year at Harvard, Emerson began his journal, and in the August 8th entry, he wrote about his handsome schoolmate Martin Gay:
"A strange face in the Freshman class whom I should like to know very much. He has a great deal of character in his features....His name is Gay. I shall endeavor to become acquainted with him & wish if possible that I might be able to recall at a future period the singular sensations which his presence produced..."
With an unembarrassed frankness he wrote in his journal about the disturbing power of the glances he and Martin Gay exchanged. He would remain susceptible to such crushes, expressed at first through glances, all his life. Later he wrote about the quickness with which a glance could arouse a depth of interest. He had a sort of theory of "the glance." And while he heavily crossed out the Martin Gay journal notes at some later time, his initial recording of them indicates his essential emotional openness.
In a journal entry dated May 1, 1821, Emerson writes:
"I am more puzzled than ever with Gay's conduct. He came out to meet me yesterday, but just before we met, I turned another corner and most strangely avoided him. This morning I went out to meet him in a different direction and stopped to speak to a lounger so as to be directly in Gay's way, but he turned into the first gate and went towards Stoughton. All this child's play persists without any apparent design, and as soberly as if both of us were intent on some tremendous affair."
Emerson's journal was subsequently filled with many poems, comments and references to Martin Gay, who went on to become a prominent Boston physician.
As for Emerson (1803-1882), his first wife died at age twenty. Emerson did not seem to inspire passion in women, and he treated his second wife according to strictures of those times – wives were for bearing children and running households. Emerson proposed marriage to his second wife by writing her a letter. After the nuptials she treated him coolly and always called him Mr. Emerson. While Emerson admitted he could not write the sort of romantic love letters that women wanted, he had no difficulty writing sexually suggestive poetry about Martin Gay, and he wrote about Nathaniel Hawthorne in passionate terms, as well.
And there you have it.