Edward James on homosexuality
Edward James is rightly celebrated for many things, not least his artistic patronage, the fantastical constructions of ‘Las Pozas’ in Mexico, and the founding of West Dean College in 1971. Less well known is the time he spent in Los Angeles, at various points between the 1940s and 1960s, when his social circle included Aldous Huxley, Igor Stravinsky, Gerald Heard and Christopher Isherwood. Archival records reveal that during this period, James was more open about his bisexuality than he had felt able to be in England. Same sex relationships were illegal in California until 1976 and, as James himself observed, “It is one thing to have a great many people know – off the record – that one is ‘queer’: It is quite another thing to announce it publicly and have this inscribed in the official papers of one’s dossier”.
To mark Pride 2021, we are sharing a brief excerpt from an unpublished text by Edward James, thought to date from the mid-1960s, focusing on his reflections on homosexuality. The text, found amongst miscellaneous papers in the West Dean College Archives, contains James’ observations on a variety of subjects, including religion and homophobia, as well as engagements with writing by C. G. Jung, Alfred Kingsley, and Margaret Mead. The following section outlines James’ view on the persecution of gay men in mid-20th Century America. His views on discriminatory laws and entrapment policies are ahead of their time and reveal a little known aspect of James’ life and his literary output.