Saturday, January 10, 2009

William Paine - Anderson: Erotic Socialism II


In a previous post, I was being puzzled by a question about the authorship of some books. William Paine, described in the catalogue of the British Library as 'a writer on social issues', published two books Shop Slavery and Emancipation (P. S. King, London, 1912), with an introduction by H. G. Wells, and The New Aristocracy (Leonard Parsons, London, 1920).


These two books have been known in gay book circles (if there are indeed such circles) because they include appeals for the oppression of shop workers to be broken by a radical new form of love between men. More than that, both books include a thinly veiled description of a gay affair between Paine and a young man (six years Paine's junior) which is described in achingly beautiful passages. This is a man after Walt Whitman and Edward Carpenter's hearts. He is attempting to lay out a form of 'erotic socialism'.


The previous post delineates why I was a little confused. Briefly, there are two other publications with very similar titles that Paine references in the preface to his Shop Slavery - extremely similar titles but different authors. I have now been able to examine those, The Servitude of the Shop by William C. Anderson (NAUSWC, London [printed at Manchester], 1907 second edition) and The Counter Exposed by Will Anderson (Klene & Co., London, 1896) and can confirm that Anderson and Paine are the same person. Shop Slavery and Emancipation in particular includes large tracts which were simply rewritten in slightly enlarged form to create The Counter Exposed. Also, the biographical stories and anecdotes told by Paine and Anderson are the same.


It is strange that although all his books, with the exception of the NAUSWC pamphlet, contain lots of biographical detail, it is all rather vague and not anchored, as it were, to any points of reference. Its not easy to feel that one knows who Anderson-Paine is.


In The New Aristocracy Paine talks about his first experience of meeting a member of the 'old' aristocracy. He habitually stayed in a cottage on an estate for six or seven weeks of the summer, he talks of a local cleric, the brother of the Marquess of Bristol whose estate it was, who Paine met at the age of seven and when Paine was nine, the cleric was made the Bishop of Bath and Wells. This internal evidence has allowed me to date Paine's birth to circa 1860 as the Bishop concerned was the Rt Rev'd Lord Arthur Charles Hervey (1808-1894) who was consecrated in 1869. Not quite the Baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells* but, we are told, "He was a revelation to me, and he came to see me nearly every day... Generally he stayed about half-an-hour, and always he took me on his knee. I remember a certain look of delight on his face when we were left alone together; I remember even that his voice was different then - that it had a hush in it and a more intimate tone, as if it were a relief to him to put his years and his greatness aside and become a child again with me."


This, is the anchor point I've been looking for. Knowing Anderson-Paine's date of birth means that I can begin piecing together the other biographical details he gives away in the book - and many of them are falling together nicely. The Marquess of Bristol's estate, for example, was the village of Ickworth in Suffolk and I have tracked down some evidence which connects both the name Paine and Anderson to the village. I'm haven't quite nailed him down yet - I still don't know exactly why he went by both Anderson and Paine, nor have I found his family - but I'm getting there. I would love to uncover the name of his boyfriend too but the evidence there is extremely scant from the text so I am not holding my breath on that one.


I'm sure there'll be more to come on this chap.


*If you don't understand the reference then you don't watch enough British comedy!

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