Monday, June 16, 2008

William Paine - Erotic Socialism - Bibliographical Puzzle

William Paine was an interesting character in the story of late nineteenth century homosexuality. He is known for his authorship of this book (above) and The New Aristocracy which, together, present what has been called 'erotic socialism'. He presented the ideal that in order to raise the working-class boy from his opression one should, if one were a shop-owner or manager or the like, simply take him to one's breast. Essentially the two books presented a heady mix of socialism, religion and eroticism - the idea of friend was elevated to a Platonic Ideal, something to be seen in every young working class lad and in a host of loving (and yes, in his second book he was even able to condone sexual) relationships between the working-class lad and his socially more advanced mentors would be found the stuff of social reform and perhaps even revolution! Such was the aspiration of William Paine. His descriptions and documenting of the conditions of the working-class, live-in, shopworkers at the time were indeed factual and effecting and it was for that reason that such a luminary as H G Wells was induced to write an Introduction. It is quite clear by the end of the Introduction however, that Wells was impressed by the reportage much more than the chapter in which Paine detailed the 'Way Out'. Wells probably found it difficult to imagine how a vast movement of love was going to break out spontaneously between the working and middle classes.

Paine is not a very well documented character. There is some evidence within the text that he had a varied career including stints as a shopworker himself and as secretary to a travelling elocutionist. There is a very little ephemeral evidence which has turned up over the years to provide a few more details but not much.

What's got me scratching my head at the moment is this. In his Preface, Paine writes:

Originally under the title of the "Counter Exposed," something answering in design to this little work was muddled into print, more or less to please and humour me, by a delightful little dutchman who was anything but a bona fide publisher of revolutionary literature, and for whom I acted a the time as a reader.

I can find no such book in the British Library Catalogue - which is not necessarily a surprise as his description did sound particularly ephemeral - however, I do find The Counter Exposed. An Appeal to Shop Assistants, Clerks etc. by one Will Anderson published in 1896 by a company I've not come across before but whose name brings a number of Dutch language hits in Google, Klene & Co. This is interesting enough I suppose. If that were it I might assume that Paine had nicked his title from someone else's work or vice verce. But then...

Further on in the Preface, Paine writes about his indebtedness to various other writers including:

...to Mr. W. C. Anderson for his careful monograph "The Servitude of the Shop" published by the National Amalgamated Union of Shop-Assistants, Warehousemen, and Clerks
So Paine's own title for the current book is almost identical (Shop Slavery), again, to a work by this Anderson! The British Library in this instance appear to only have The Servitude of the Shop in microfilm format and have no author recorded for it!

I am beginning to wonder if William Paine and Will C Anderson could, in fact, be the same person. Certainly, something seems a little odd and more digging is required I'm sure.

1 comment:

Kapitano said...

What an intriguing figure. Cast in the Edward Carpenter mould.

Could the name "Paine" be a pseudonymic tribute to Thomas Paine?

Greetings by the way, from someone living in the same town and sharing some of the same interests, but without the organisation to persue them.

 
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