The Damned Don t Cry - They Just Disappear
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In The Damned Don't Cry—They Just Disappear, literary historian and Lamba Award-winning novelist Harlan Greene has created a portrait of a nearly forgotten southern writer, unearthing information from archives, rare books, film libraries,and small-town newspapers. Greene brings Harry Hervey (1900-1951) to life and explicates his works to reveal him as a hardworking writer and master of many genres, bravely unwilling to conform to conventional values.

As Greene illustrates, Hervey's novels, short stories, nonfiction books, and film scripts contain complex mixtures of history and thinly disguised homoerotic situations and themes. They blend local color, naturalism, melodrama, and psychological and sexual truths that provide a view to the circles in which he moved. Living openly with his male lover in Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, Hervey set novels in these cities that scandalized the locals and critics as well. He challenged the sexual mores of his day, sometimes subtly and at other times brazenly presenting texts that told one story to gay male readers, while still courting a mainstream audience. His novels and nonfiction may have been coded and thus escaped detection in their day, but twenty-first century readers can decipher them easily.

Greene also discusses Hervey's travel books and successful Hollywood scriptwriting, as well as his use of exotic elements from Asian cultures. The iconic film Shanghai Express, starring Marlene Dietrich, was based on one of his original stories. He also wrote some of the first travel books on Indochina, with descriptions of male and female prostitution and allusions to his own sexual adventures, which still make for sensational reading today.

Despite Hervey's output and his perseverance in presenting gay characters and themes as openly as he could, he has not been included in any survey of twentieth-century gay writers. Greene now rectifies this omission, providing the first book-length study of Hervey's life and work and the first scholarly attention to him in more than fifty years. It furthers our understanding of gay life in the South, as well as the impact of gay artists on popular culture in the first half of the twentieth century.



Publié par
Date de parution 29 décembre 2017
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781611178128
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1600€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


The Damned Don t Cry-They Just Disappear
The Damned Don t Cry-They Just Disappear
Harlan Greene

2018 Harlan Greene
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at .
ISBN 978-1-61117-811-1 (cloth)
ISBN 978-1-61117-812-8 (ebook)
To Jonathan
List of Illustrations
1 Of Mosques and Main Street
2 Condemn Me Not
3 The Blue Road of Romance
4 Born to Revel
5 The Gay Sarong
6 Not Entirely Platonic
7 Cobra, Conga , and Charleston
8 Devil Dancer of the Middle Sex
9 Red Ending
10 The Mother of Inversion
11 The Hollywood Express
12 Passport to Hell
13 The Damned Don t Cry
14 The Benison of Work and a Little Beauty
15 Promised to Eternity
16 A Singular Elation
17 Aftermath
Jane, or Jennie, Davis Hervey
Harry Clay Hervey Sr. and Jr.
Harry Hervey in fancy dress as a child
Cadet Harry Hervey, Georgia Military Academy
Harry Hervey, the young author, ca. 1921
Harry Hervey in costume
Harry Hervey in the gay sarong
Carleton Hildreth
Harry Hervey and Carleton Hildreth
Dust Jacket for The Damned Don t Cry
Harry Hervey, ca. 1950
Cover for She - Devil
This book has been made possible-and better-through the contributions, competence, and generosity of many individuals, archivists, and curators around the country. In Savannah, Lynette Stoudt and other members of the archival staff of the Georgia Historical Society were prompt, professional, and accommodating. Others in the city, including John Duncan, Robert T. Henderson, Arthur Morrison, Patti Parker, and Roger Smith, graciously shared their information and knowledge of Harry Hervey and made helpful connections. In Charleston at the College of Charleston s Addlestone Library s Special Collections, digital archivist Sam Stewart was of great help in digitizing photographs. In Baltimore, Michael Johnson of the Special Collections Department of the Enoch Pratt Free Library extended permission to quote from Henry Mencken s memorandum to Henry Allen Moe at the New York Public Library. ( Enoch Pratt Free Library, Maryland s State Library Resource Center. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission. Unauthorized reproductions or use prohibited.)
As for help from other scholars, I d like to thank Gene Waddell and Barbara Bellows for alerting me to information I would have missed. Kent Davis of DatAsia Press opened my eyes to many things. He not only reprinted two of Hervey s books, but in the process, while showing me the significance of Hervey s Southeast Asia perceptions and works, became a good friend. In many ways, this book would not have been possible without Susan Dick Hoffius, who, in her previous affiliation with the Georgia Historical Society, made possible the acquisition of the Harry Hervey and Carleton Hildreth materials now housed there. She and other friends and colleagues have been patient with me and tolerated my obsessions and my absences over these past many years that I pursued Harry Hervey. And to Jonathan David Applegate Ray, I render my appreciation, awe, admiration and love. Thank you all.
I n the summer of 1951 in a townhouse in New York City, a man lay struggling for breath. As light filtered into the sickroom and muted traffic noise rose and fell like surf, people on the other side of the door listened to expiring gasps. Every now and then, the door opened and a hushed solemn visitor, coming to pay last respects, was allowed in.
Propped in bed, adventurer and author Harry Hervey, his owlish glasses on, could not speak but acknowledged his guest wanly. Sure the scene was melodramatic (he was a master of the genre after all), but he had been faced with death before. In China decades before, a young revolutionary had pointed a knife at him; and later, press reports had told of Hervey lying in the bottom of a fragile craft, delirious with jungle fever. Carleton Hildreth, his handsome young lover, had been with him then; and Hildreth, older but still handsome, was still at his side fretting.
I m fine, it s nothing , Hervey gestured dismissively between hard-won gasps. With another operation, he d be up again. A contraption attached to his telephone had allowed him to listen to conversations with his new agent. 1 His nearly dead film career was on the upswing now; and soon he d be, too.
Through sheer will, he had achieved the impossible before-acclaim for his books, a Broadway play, and Hollywood films. He had been hailed as an exotic adventurer and expert Orientalist; perhaps even more daringly, he had lived openly with Hildreth in hostile times and cities, staring down censors, social critics, and creditors who had tried to stop him. The glamorous life was to come to them again, for to everyone s wonder but his own, Hervey rallied.
Within a few days, he was out of bed, nonchalantly shopping with Hildreth and going out to see movies like Sunset Boulevard . Its star Gloria Swanson had never graced any of his films-Marlene Dietrich and Tallulah Bankhead had been his divas. 2 But he loved the story of Norma Desmond, the silent film actress who once had been big and was now poised for a comeback. He knew he was too. The world had certainly not seen the last of Harry Hervey.
Of Mosques and Main Street
T he first he had seen of the world was some fifty years before on November 5, 1900, in the town of Beaumont, Texas, a locale just visited by one of the worst hurricanes in American history. The sense of having missed something momentous haunted Harry Hervey throughout his youth, and he tried desperately to find it.
His family centered around grandfather Frank, nicknamed the General, not for his rank in the Civil War but for what he achieved afterward in the United Confederate Veterans. 1 If General Frank Hervey told stories of the war on porches on long summer afternoons as Confederate jessamine bloomed, his grandson Harry was not there, or if so, he was not paying attention. Other boys growing up in the South in the early 1900s might have thrust imaginary swords against Yankee enemies and curdled the air with the famous Rebel Yell, but not him. He has written nine books, and never so much as said boo to the Confederacy, a critic would wail in 1939, the year that saw the release of the iconic Confederate film, Gone with the Wind . 2
Instead, the dreamy boy was often found draped on davenports, behind cramped front desks, or hidden behind large potted palms in hotel lobbies, pouring over piles of books and yellowed geographic journal[s] containing pictures of far-off places and people. 3
His favorite photograph was of queerly dressed men who were quite astonishing. As he stared at the men in long flowing garments with turbans on their heads, with others who were nearly naked something latent woke in the boy; a longing flickered to life like a flame given oxygen. 4
In the photograph, the figures stood in front of a great causeway flung across a marshy stretch, tapering to the foot of tremendous stairways and monstrous cone-shaped towers, above the black jungle. The phallic tower was captivating; its hugeness, the utter newness, trapped and held him. And there were those dark, naked men moving among the galleries . Beneath the picture was a line that he read slowly. The Ancient Ruins of Angkor. When he became a man he would go there. He knew he would. He d be among jungles and strange, dark men. 5 Indeed in the future, he d write one of the earliest American books on Angkor Wat and claim credit for discovering Khymer ruins, which no white man had seen for centuries. And as for those strange dark men, well, he d only be able to hint at the adventures he had with them.
Wanderlust was a hallmark of the Herveys. The boy s great grandfather (General Frank s father) had run off to Mexico to fight in the 1840s only to die there and leave an orphaned family back in Columbus, Georgia. In the next generation, when Grandfather Frank took off for war, it was to New Orleans to enlist in the Confederate infantry, serving as a second sergeant in Company A, Tochman s Polish Brigade. Frank was eventually promoted to chief of artillery on the staff of Colonel John Baylor and was captured by the enemy to languish in a Union prison. 6
Frank Hervey settled down after the war, marrying Anna Bedell of Pensacola, Florida, in 1866. Anna s father (despite the name George Washington) was English, and the Bedells (sometimes spelled Bidell) as well as the Herveys took pride in being of English stock. 7 As an adult Harry Hervey would periodically claim descent from famous Englishmen. Coming from a line of sea-faring people including Lord Francis Hervey and Admiral Dewey, it was only natural he d become an adventurous traveler, he d brag. And later, when embarking on a story about Charles and John Wesley, founders of Methodism, Hervey would claim descent from their Holy Club associate and friend, James Hervey. Ancestor Hervey had written, of all things, a religious best seller, an irony not lost on the last of the gay mad Herveys, as he styled himself. His own best sellers (and those that went bust) were sex-filled, lurid, depraved, and shocking. 8
Grandfather Frank joined his father-in-law s hotel business and embarked on becoming a family man. Daughters came first-Minnie in 1871 and Ralphie the next year. Then came four sons: Charles Bedell born April 6, 1874, destined to play a great role in his nephew s life; Frank Jr. born in 1875; Harry Clay Hervey Sr. (the father of Harry Clay Hervey Jr., the subject of this biography) born on July 12, 1877; and George, the last son, rounded out the quartet in 1879. 9
The little information known about Hervey s father, Harry Sr., comes from newspaper stories. In 1885, when General Frank and his children were living in the European Hotel in Macon, Georgia, a newspaper reported of Harry Sr.: While running for home base, the little fellow dashed against a post and was knocked senseless. Aid was at once given him, and in a short time Harry was restored to consciousness with apparently no long-term effects. 10
Frank was ambitious and soon running the Lenoir House hotel in Macon, too, before branching even further to the Warm Springs Hotel, later the Roosevelt Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. His oldest son Charles attended nearby Mercer University and graduated in 1894. 11
It was about this time that Frank moved his remaining children from Macon, Georgia, to Houston, Texas, where he assumed management of the Capitol Hotel. In December 1897 in one of its one hundred rooms, something happened to his son Harry Clay Hervey Sr. that again got his name in the papers. He was tending to a guest only to have the older man suffer a heart attack and die in his arms. 12
It s not known exactly when that dapper young man met Jane Louise Davis, a slight young girl with fair hair, born in Hockley, Texas, on May 6, 1879, a date she would alter in the coming years. 13 Usually called Jennie, she had three older sisters: Alberta, Katie, and the adopted Nellie English, all born in Texas. Something had prompted the girls parents, Mahlon, a farmer, and Jane Lavinia, a home maker, to move from Vermont to Texas. 14 (A Vermont background and an alcoholic father named Mahlon would figure in some of Hervey s novels.) 15
The only glimpse afforded us of the writer s mother, Jennie Davis, before her marriage to Harry Hervey Sr. is from a scrap of a newspaper clipping describing a party for young women. Twelve beautiful young ladies in full evening dress engaged each other s company for the dances and intermissions . The cotillion was gracefully led by Misses Davis and Scuddamore and many new and novel figures were introduced, a newspaper reporter gushed. If boys don t believe that girls can have fun without them they ought to have been concealed in a closet and witnessed that gay gathering, and indeed, they would have changed minds. 16
As the girls Jennie Davis and Charlotte Scuddamore lead the procession to sandwiches and punch, they may have not known it, but they were soon to marry brothers. In the next generation, Davis s son would write of overlapping lives of brothers and their loves, with a younger brother always in the shadow of a more successful older one. 17
Elder brother Charles Bedell Hervey married Charlotte Mary (or Mae) Scudamore (sometimes Skidamore) in her hometown of Natchez, Mississippi, in 1898. At some later date in an unknown place, never recalled or memorialized in the family, the younger brother Harry Clay Hervey Sr. married Jane Louise Davis. In fact, not much of the union would ever be noted, and with Jennie s habit of moving dates around, it s possible she might not have been married the socially correct number of months before the birth of her boy, who d grow up to write of girls getting pregnant and becoming desperate to marry. Harry Sr. would have been about twenty-two, Jennie about twenty. They named their son Harry Clay Hervey Jr., as if staking a claim of utter legitimacy, but the boy s childless uncle, Charles Bedell Hervey, always would be more of a father to him than the man whose name he bore. Intriguingly, Hervey would come to write of an uncle later revealed as a father instead. 18 Jennie did not have an easy time with birth, and her son bore a scar on his brow over his left eye suffered in the process. It s where the fairies kissed you when you were born, she would tell him. 19

Jane, or Jennie Davis, Hervey about the time of her wedding. Photograph courtesy of the Georgia Historical Society.
A photograph shows father and son in matching long black bathing suits, with the golden-headed boy looking up adoringly at the man he would come to resemble. Jennie labeled it a proud father. In another photograph, she hoists up her infant, and her hair is piled up on her head; nearby, ramrod straight, sits Miss Birdy wearing a hat with wings as if in fact a bird has just landed on it. 20

A Proud Father. Harry Hervey Jr. and his father, Harry Hervey Sr. Photograph courtesy of the Georgia Historical Society.
By the time baby Harry was three, he and his parents had moved back and forth from Texas to Florida to Mobile, Alabama, where Uncle Charles Bedell Hervey managed the Bienville Hotel. 21 Charles soon opened the Cawthorn in Mobile in 1906 and the Battle House, with accommodations for six hundred, two years later.
To help his younger son get a foot up in life, General Frank, head of the chain of hotels styled the Hervey Hotel Company, signed a lease on the New State House Hotel in Waco, Texas, and handed it over to the personal management of Harry Sr. 22
About 1907 the General retired, and Charles, the eldest son, took the reins of the Company. I would like to have Montgomery in my chain of hotels, he pontificated in an article titled Hervey Wants It -as if it was well known that he usually got his way. By 1908 he had become president of the Mobile and Gulf Coast Hotel Men s Association, and his younger brother Harry attended trade conventions with him. 23
Although the hotel in Waco proved profitable and remained in the Hervey Hotel Company chain, Harry Sr., for an unknown reason, was demoted from manager and brought back to Mobile, to clerk at the Cawthorn, a great reduction in status. He must have redeemed himself, for in September 1908 Charles named his younger brother Harry Sr. manager of the New Battle House. To all, he appeared an ideal young host. 24
Accustomed to moving around and rarely playing with children his age, Harry Jr. was solitary. Furthermore, it was galling for a young boy who craved adventure to never have any of his own, as guests came and went bearing trunks plastered with labels of faraway lands. When not pouring over images of nearly naked men, he could be found in the hotel lobbies eavesdropping on guests and memorizing books about India, the Malay Peninsula, Tibet, and beyond. Perhaps it was only natural that once he began publishing he would center his tales in exotic lands or in hotels and train stations, crossroads where strangers could meet and mingle their destinies.
One cool November evening, he eavesdropped on a man speaking of China and Dr. Sun Yat-sen. I was seven or eight at the time, and my knowledge of China was vague, colored chiefly by dragons and a jade ring that my mother wore. But the country had a subtle fascination for me, and dimly, I sensed that it was woven into my youth and manhood. This was the only mention he d give in any of his writings of his growing up; and he d only recall that and the fire-lit rooms of my boyhood, with the blue dusk sifting down years later when he was in China, claiming a friendship with the same Dr. Sun Yat-sen. 25
Living with Harry Jr. in the hotel in Mobile were his Grandfather Frank and Grandmother Anna, his parents, Uncle Charles and Aunt Charlotte, as well as Uncle George and Aunt Etelka. Uncle Frank Jr. and his wife Lucy were in Houston. He was the sole child among them. 26
Beside reading, there were handsome men and beautifully dressed women in lobbies to watch, mysterious all-male steam rooms to wander through, and because of where he lived, there was also the opportunity to escape the ordinary and have the fantastic usurp the real, at least once a year, at Carnival, the Mardi Gras-like celebrations held in many Gulf Coast cities. 27 During these celebrations encouraging outrageousness and excess, a dreamy feminine boy like Harry could indulge his penchant for fancy dress without fear of being punished for donning women s clothing or other costumes. Photographed as Little Lord Fauntleroy, an English dandy, or later as an adult as an Eastern dancer of ambiguous gender, Harry Hervey could try on a new persona as he would a costume, going on to wear drag as an adult.
At age eight or nine, at a child s birthday party in New Orleans, Hervey appeared as a prince wearing a royal suit of white satin with silver garniture while leading a grand march. He soon wrote his own play, a tragedy called Y Vonne and acted it out in the backyard with other children. 28 It is possible he assumed the title female role himself, in love as he was with costume, acting out imaginary scenes and seeing life through the eyes of strong dramatic women. Women, what they wore, their rich emotional lives, their wiles and their power as seducers and love objects of men, both attracted and repelled Harry Hervey. Though he would focus on women in his art, veering from imitation to misogyny, he was sexually attracted to men.

Harry Hervey showing his love of costume and fancy dress-even as a child. Photograph courtesy of the Georgia Historical Society.
Despite the contempt aimed at gay men and women in this era, and indeed throughout all the decades of his life, there is no suggestion that Harry Hervey, as a child or later, ever manifested any real guilt about his same-sex attractions. Even though he needed to support himself through his pen, his writing at times would be so homoerotic that producers would not stage it.
Grandfather Frank died at his farm at Neshota, Alabama, in 1910, leaving his oldest son Charles as president and manager of the Hervey Hotel Company, with all the other brothers employed at various family properties. In 1912, Hervey s father was in Tallahassee, Florida. But by 1913, the only board members at a meeting of the hotel company listed present were Charles, Frank Jr., and George. Missing without remark was Harry C. Hervey Sr.-apparently not only vanished from the firm but the family. 29
If Hervey Jr. knew what happened to his father or where he went, he never mentioned it. Perhaps he dramatized what he felt in his third novel Ethan Quest , where the eponymous hero, based on Hervey himself, growing up in a house of boarders, is haunted by a missing father. When he asks where his father is, there is only a vague reply that he had gone way off and wouldn t ever return. Ethan s father had joined the ranks of things to be regarded with mingled fear and curiosity, such as the attic, drunken men and the doctor s office -suggesting that Harry Hervey Sr. may have left due to illicit sex (carried out in the attic in the novel), drunkenness, or disease. 30
In the coming years, the novelist would tell reporters that it was in this era when his father disappeared that his own glamorous life of world-wide travel began. Not only was that not true, but Hervey compounded his falsehoods by saying he was often accompanied by his father who was not there or with both of his parents who were separated, a rather poignant and obvious attempt to assume a dream life for a bitter reality. 31 Hervey s doppelganger Ethan Quest also fabricates stories, telling other boys about an absent father and an exotic life of world-wide adventures.
Afterwards, his success as a liar thrilled and alarmed him. The memory of the boys faces, eager with interest, challenged his vanity. But the fact that he had deliberately falsified troubled him-slightly. He found it disturbing that he did not regret it more. It showed him that he had a capacity for violating the fringe of ethics without leaving more than a transient sediment in his conscience. 32 Hervey, like his fictional alter ego, would lie glibly about all manner of things in the coming years with little apparent guilt-or consistency, saying what he wanted to whatever end suited him.
Telling stories about a missing father seems to have given the young boy license to weave fantasies about himself. And as if he had a grudge against them, fathers would never fare well in his works. If not dead or missing, they would be monsters. Mothers could be absent, too; but often as not, they loomed as emotional vampires or gorgons.
After her husband left, Jennie forsook the Hervey clan for Sewanee, Tennessee, where she enrolled her boy in boarding school while she lived in the nearby town of Columbia. 33 Young Harry had sung in church choirs and was photographed in religious garb (he also once fantasized about becoming a priest) and devoutly believed in God. Sewanee Military Academy, where he enrolled in the middle of the year, in the Advent Term, seemed perfect with its strong religious background, its connections to the Episcopal Church and the University of the South. Here the boy who drew and sketched in charcoal, liked fancy dress, and fantasized about women s clothes and naked men could gain guidance and discipline. 34
If Hervey had not already become sexually active with a hotel guest or in the Turkish bath at the family hotel Bienville by then, he could have had his first experience at Sewanee in his early teens, or when he d return a few years later. Apparently, this was not an uncommon experience at the all-male school. 35 Whatever happened there, Jennie abruptly took him away to Atlanta, Georgia, and enrolled him instead in the Georgia Military Academy by 1916. She listed herself as his guardian, with no mention of her husband. To support herself, she took up her in-laws profession, hotel work, in Atlanta at the Ansley.
Jennie s mamma s boy did well in some subjects. A report card shows he scored a 90 in composition, good for a future writer, but 58 in math-he d always be in debt and harassed by the IRS-but in English he scored another 90. 36 Still reading voraciously about exotic locales, he found a hero in Joseph Conrad. He was sixteen when he read An Outcast of the Islands, and it left his mind in troubled twilight, conscious of brooding beauty and yet unable to fathom it . He read Victory and through the pages he had the impressions of drums at dusk Then Youth sheer splendor Lord Jim something poignant and bruising and enormously inexplicable. It gave him a feeling of exalted serenity to wander in the melancholy dusk of Conrad. Life in books was more colorful and appealing than the world around him, especially when he came upon a translation of Le Roman d un Spahi [by Pierre Loti] . It left him with a deeper sense of appalling beauty. As he turned the pages, he could smell the warm, rotting earth, the decayed lilies and poisonous plants of that insidious coast; and he almost sobbed aloud as, in imagination, he heard the crying wind that mourned the slain Spahi. 37
He was haunted by this story of a handsome Frenchman who soils himself through his relationship with a half-caste woman in Senegal. Anguished, Jean Peyral, the Spahi, recoils in disgust from his sexual exploits and the object of his lust, something a young boy might have felt if he had guilt about sex with men. (But then the Spahi, as well as his creator, Loti, both apparently also felt attractions to handsome men.) 38
Another Loti work, his Un Pelerin d Angkor , and its depictions of Angkor, a dead city buried in a living tomb of jungle also hit a responsive chord in the boy and filled [him] with the anguish of dissatisfaction. 39 It heartened his resolve to take off and see that part of the world as soon as he could.
In Atlanta, while at the Georgia Military Academy, he attended his first opera, Carmen , starring Geraldine Farrar, who had played the role earlier in a Cecil B. DeMille silent film. Hervey loved watching these dramatic movies of fated women and often identified with-and later wrote of-them. The more conservative members of the Atlanta audience were scandalized by her accurate impersonation of a Spanish Gipsy with little reticences. But Cadet Harry Hervey from the Georgia Military Academy was entranced. Miss Farrar s vivid beauty, her brilliant singing, and her world renown were, Cadet Hervey knew, straight from the high-powered, high-lighted scenes of romance. 40 After the performance the boy went to her dressing room. With adolescent gravity, he kissed her hand and spied a spangle fallen from her costume which reverently he picked up and tucked it into his pocket where he carried it for years as a talisman. 41

Cadet Harry Hervey, Georgia Military Academy, ca. 1917. Photograph courtesy of the Georgia Historical Society.
Hervey graduated from the Georgia Military Academy on June 6, 1917, covering himself with honors; he won the Woodward Award for Declamation, making Jennie proud. 42 He certainly looked literary, but one wonders what his classmates felt about this slightly chubby-faced cadet who sported a pince-nez. 43
Yet this effeminate youth had surpassed many of the rugged handsome young men in the Academy. At sixteen, he could boast of seeing his first work in print. 44 Even more impressive was who had published it: none other than Henry Louis Mencken, one of America s most respected cultural and literary critics. If the school boys did not know who he was, their teachers certainly did. Mencken was editor of the country s most prestigious literary magazine, the Smart Set , and publication in its pages was a major feat. Hervey would trumpet this for years, explaining how while enrolled at the Georgia Military Academy he had sent off a short story, and Mencken, doubting that a school boy could have authored it, wrote to find out if there really was a cadet Hervey enrolled there. 45
For the next thirty years, he d repeat these details; it would resurface in his obituary, part and parcel of the Hervey legend. The only flaw in the story is that it is not true. Mencken may have bought a story from the boy, but it was certainly not for the cutting edge the Smart Set , which despite or because of its quality was losing money. Without the public s knowledge, Mencken and his partner George Jean Nathan supported their high-brow venture with profits from other cheaper, more lurid magazines that no one-other than adolescent boys, perhaps-would admit to reading.
It happened that some writers who had submitted manuscripts to the Smart Set received acceptance letters on its mauve paper with pink lettering, with a note from Mencken stating how much they liked their material [but] that it would appear in their sister publication. One was the Parisienne , printing cheap stories on even cheaper paper. I had never heard of this sister, recalled the playwright S. N. Behrman when this scenario happened to him, but I was happy to be admitted to the family. 46 Apparently, the same held true for a certain sixteen-year-old boy, who always let others believe he had published in the Smart Set . His duplicity worked. No one ever challenged him.
In 1917, out of school and with no father around (Hervey Sr. apparently was in voluntary military training, trying to get into the armed forces), no other magazines buying his work, and no one helping him, as his successful uncle Charles was having bankruptcy problems over the recall of a four-thousand-dollar loan, Hervey longed to start on a life of adventure. He worked as an elevator boy in a hotel in Atlanta, and when his uncle Charles s finances improved, Hervey found his way to him at his San Carlos Hotel in Pensacola. 47 After an absence of about four years, the boy s father reappeared and was living at the San Carlos as well. If Charles gave his brother shelter, he did not trust him with a job; Harry Sr. was instead engaged at the local YMCA in war work. 48
In registering for the newly instigated selective service, young Hervey listed his prodigal father and not his more responsible mother as his guardian and the San Carlos Hotel as his permanent address. Jennie may not have wanted her boy to go to war. Working in Greenville, South Carolina, at the Imperial Hotel, the boy devised an escape route; he d enlist and go abroad. Born in 1900, he first wrote 1899 on the line asking for his birth year. In doing the math, however, he saw that did not make him the desired age. Hervey then crossed that out and changed it to 1897 to make himself twenty-one. (For good reason he had only scored a 58 in Math for his first term at the Georgia Military Academy.) Across the top of the card, he noted that he was a student at Sewanee. 49 Even that was not totally true. He had enrolled instead as a special student in 1918 to join the Student Army Training Corps. 50
But he loved the place, enough to lie about graduating from there. Within a few years, he d be lapsing into passionate purple prose surging with barely repressed homoeroticism, describing a homoerotic relationship between his stand-in character Ethan Quest and a handsome virile young man name Eric Corson. That first week at Sewanee was a complicated design in Ethan s memory, a fabric in which Eric was the only clear figure. There was always splendid Eric to whom he clung mentally and who clung to him, unconsciously. One night, Ethan reads Eric poetry by Swinburne. Do you believe in queer things? he asks; you and I are friends, we were from the very start. There must be some real reason. Do you suppose-maybe-that you and I-well, lived long ago? Ethan wonders if they might be reincarnated male combatants who fought side by side like the warrior-lovers of Greece. Maybe people are different colors of light, Ethan theorizes. Some lights create ghastly hues when they blend ; but both he and his roommate are the same white artistic light. Once they meet, there isn t any change, only a brighter glow. That s rare. 51
Burning with a white hot intensity of friendship, Ethan longs for something more from his friend; but when another student speaks of women, a cold tremor runs up Ethan s legs and he shudders. Women disgust Ethan; and after being out with one, he feels dirty and longs for his beautiful roommate Eric. He wanted the touch of his friend. Blond, brown friend sitting in the room. Or lying beside him in the darkness. 52 It s not hard to see what Hervey, longing for a touch of a friend lying with him in the night, wanted to do, and perhaps did, at Sewanee. It is known that other gay male writers, such as William Alexander Percy, did find male sexual partners among their peers-and even among their teachers at that school. 53
Failing to get into the military, perhaps due to his poor vision in one eye or longing for another man, he tried another tactic, gaining admission to Officer Reserve Corps whose aim was to supply the army with civilians suitable for certain tasks. But unlike his grandfather and great grandfather before him, he failed as his father did to make it to the European battlefields. Hervey was in Indianapolis when the armistice was signed. 54
Having lost this opportunity to insert himself in the great drama of his times, his father no help, he was thrown back into his mother s lap. If there was peace in Europe, such was not the case in Houston where Harry Sr. was working as a clerk and boarding in a house on Fannin Street; his wife Jennie was renting a place on Lamar. 55 The marriage was over; even if they were not officially divorced, there would be no reconciling.
Hervey was pulled not just between his parents but to other extremes. There were his heroes and heroines-handsome athletic men and the beautiful women who desired them-and his own physical appearance, as shown in one photograph, slightly bottom heavy, awkward and tentative, peering out through thick lenses, hat in hand, dressed entirely in white, an uneasy dandy. 56 It was a jolting disparity between fact and fantasy. At nineteen, he yearned to break free, travel to the places that haunted his imagination, and become someone else entirely. His only outlet beyond reading was writing. Slinky words, like colored panthers prowled his mind and lured him on with their savage loveliness. But whatever he captured on paper and sent off to editors was returned. Rhythms in Color, his alter ego, Ethan Quest, calls these stories that crowded his brain with reeling.
Your work is very puzzling, the editor of a poetry journal writes to Ethan Quest, no doubt mirroring the rejection letters Hervey received. It is not poetry and it is not prose . You feel color and emotion, but you cannot harness them in the necessary technique. 57 He could express longings and emotions and the lure of the exotic but he could not sustain a story. Typical depictions of relations between men and women held no interest for him. He loved escapism, men together in faraway places in love with each other, but he did not yet feel the freedom to write of those things. Besides who would buy love stories about men? A much more practical realism was a rising trend in American letters, championed by the likes of Sinclair Lewis and Theodore Dreiser. Hervey hated not only that style but the prosaic work-a-day world it mirrored, especially when he found himself chained to a desk, a clerk in an oil company. 58 He saw himself as a victim, wasting his gift in an office among those who did not appreciate the finer things. They wanted to talk of girls and the weekend and sports; he wanted to discuss the books he read, those he would write, the films that sent him soaring, and the fabulous places he d visit. 59 He loathed the predictable, dull nine-to-five work-a-day world, which he would avoid as much as he would avoid women. Both of them-work and women-were traps, not just for his character Ethan Quest but for Harry Hervey himself; he swore off both early.
While reading James Branch Cabell s 1919 aptly named Beyond Life , Hervey found a possible way out of his creative conundrum. The book, guised as fiction, is mostly a conversation between two characters on the nature of writing. The present supply of realism is nothing but the publisher s answer to a cheap and fickle demand, Cabell claimed, and Hervey cheered. The book s narrator observes that romance is better than realism, a higher calling, raising men to a higher sphere of living; if realism be a form of art, Cabell commented, the newspaper is a permanent contribution to literature. 60 Not quite grasping the depth of what Cabell was stating, Hervey saw that exotic romantic tales in faraway places with adventurers doing glamorous things instead of stories of humdrum people trapped in apartments and jobs could be an option, if done well. Cabell had done something similar in his novel Jurgen which took the reading public of America by storm. The book on one level seems pure fantasy and on another, through double-entendres and veiled allusions, presents a coy subtext of the hero Jurgen enjoying many sexual conquests. Cabell himself said of his work that it was a jungle of phallic hints and references which will shock nobody because nobody will understand them. 61 But many like Hervey did catch and understand them, enough to spark a court case to ban the book and charge the author with obscenity. Hervey was swayed by Cabell s swashbuckling tale winking at sexual improprieties; he d follow that path but never mimic Cabell s satire. Nor would he in his first few books come to realize the irony inherent in Cabell, who despite his fanciful surfaces was saying it was the search for, and loss of, illusion that made humans real. What Hervey found congenial in the older author was that, unlike so many other writers of the Lost Generation, the Virginian did not see life tragically. Similarly, to Hervey life was a great big adventure. Cabell inspired him and provided the epiphany. If he wrote high romance, of events in strange lands, he could like Cabell simultaneously tell another, more sexual, tale. Beyond Life, he gushed in a fan letter to Cabell was something of an inspiration to me; it gave me a romantic credo; and I resolved to deliver my allegiance to the gods who know no Problems, no Sex, nor Preachments -an odd maxim for a man remembered for novels drenched in sex. 62
Other young writers of this era were also attracted to this dichotomy and took Cabell as their hero, rebelling against stories that told basic truths of life and its limitations. Richard Halliburton, born in Tennessee the same year as Hervey, whose life and writing career would parallel and diverge from his, also took the route of romance versus realism. To me, sex and romance have nothing in common, this gay writer, more closeted than Hervey, would say in one interview and, in another, Romance is doing what one wants to do. 63 Both Halliburton and Hervey, unable or uninterested in writing about average men and women whose sexual orientations they did not share, escaped to a parallel world of romance with globe-trotting males, alluding to women while really eluding them. Hervey first and then Halliburton would dupe their readers into believing they were daring young wayfarers on the road to romance, too busy to settle down with a wife, while sustaining emotional and sexual relationships with men. (It s interesting to note that Cabell, their icon, was once involved in a gay scandal and had a hard time emerging from the charge of homosexuality.) 64
Fired with enthusiasm, Hervey began to sell stories again after years of no success. In Mencken s magazine Parisienne in 1920, he published Drums of Doom, the first of many works invoking the devil, damnation, and doom. 65 Parisienne s successor, the Follies , published Devil Business in which Hervey began setting a pattern. It centers on the young man Eric Connaught searching for his male friend. Eric is drugged and kidnapped by an evil woman who overpowers him. In a country like Cambodia, in a temple like Angkor Wat, she leads a devil dance where women sway like cobras while attended by white apes who turn out to be emaciated men, enslaved and virtually emasculated by their seductress. The castrating female sets her eyes on Eric, but he kills her, freeing his enslaved male friend Garret. 66
Finding his m tier, Hervey gladly told the census takers in 1920 that his profession was that of a magazine writer. In wildly hallucinogenic stories, he played out adolescent dreams of adventure while reflecting a fear of and fascination with women, portraying them as sexless or sexually voracious, finally fixating on the figure of the Magdalen, a scarlet woman who could be holy, a saint and sinner, an ambiguity that fascinated him. In Monsieur Satan his title character has the power to restore a white Russian s lost memory or cripple him forever. Vallory Eden of Baton Rouge has to decide whether to become a sexual sacrifice to Monsieur Satan or save the other man; a rather absurd plot twist absolves her of having to act, the same ploy Hervey would use later, to much better effect, giving Marlene Dietrich one of the best roles of her life in Shanghai Express . 67
With a formula now in hand, Hervey sold story after story, many to H. L. Mencken. In 1920, Mencken and Nathan had launched Black Mask Magazine , which instantly established itself as the premiere hard-boiled pulp magazine of its time, and maybe of all time. In its pages many famous writers including Dashiell Hammett got their first tastes of success and were given the opportunity to sharpen their craft, as Hervey did. He became so well known in the genre that he would earn the distinction of being called one of the leading pulp writers of his day in an encyclopedia published in the twenty-first century.
He appeared in the magazine s premiere issue with a story called Piracy, featuring handsome young men running around half nude, including a college lad Hedin who is a bosom buddy to a young boy, who is killed by a tiger, a symbol of fierce femininity. 68
Readers in the second issue encountered Hervey s The Black Menace, a tale set in the African wilds. More Deadly than the Viper followed, a story of Travis Tremain and a vampirelike woman. In a lamasery in Tibet, the golden one, a true vamp, tries to seduce Travis; he spurns this literal femme fatale who has led her victims into the Valley of Vanishing Men. Lance, whom Travis has come to save, saves him; the woman turns into a bat and, like lovers free of devouring women, Lance and Travis go off together. 69
Another demonic tale is Devil at the Helm. Then came Mr. Sin, a complete mystery novelette involving Scotland Yard detectives, s ances by an Egyptian girl in a London drawing room, an opium-addicted baronet, a brother and sister set, a hunchback, a man named Quest, switched bodies, and a turbaned Hindu. 70
Hervey sold eight fantastic stories of demonic work and demanding women to Black Mask and more to other sister publications. By using a female heroine as a mask, he could present and legitimize descriptions of and desire for male beauty and thus put his own point of view into his stories. 71 In a few tales he grew bolder and more courageous, having his male characters express admiration for handsome Nordic blonds with hard muscular bodies. 72
In the same census in which Hervey proudly had called himself a magazine writer, his mother represented herself as a widow. Jennie may have wished her ne er do well husband dead, or maybe she really did not know his whereabouts, but he was in fact very much alive and living half a continent away near his older brother Charles in Redlands, California.
In November 1920, the newspaper there noted not just the return of Harry Clay Hervey, who had lived there years before, but also his marriage to a Mrs. Emma M. Rogers, meaning he must have divorced Jennie or was a bigamist. He was full of great plans for the Hotel Casa Loma with its dining, dancing, golf, tennis, croquet, and billiards; he leased the property for five years for $39,000. By July of 1921, however, his old bad luck, or bad habits, caught up with him, and Hervey Sr. was behind on his rent payments, prompting a law suit against him. His older brother Charles was running another hotel nearby and perhaps knew of this difficulty. 73
If Charles knew of his brother s troubles he did not help. Harry Hervey Sr. s story ended, ironically enough, in a hotel room in San Francisco when on April 19, 1922, he fired a gun to his head. Please be good to my wife and boy, he pleaded in his suicide note, but apparently he was not referring to Harry Jr. and Jennie. 74 Whether Hervey knew the truth about his father or whether his father ever told him about his remarriage is not known. But it was about this time that Hervey very unsentimentally dropped the Jr. from his name on the title pages of stories he sent in. At this time too, he turned to his novelette Drums of Doom published in August 1920. 75 He started to elaborate, emend, and embroider it; and just as he was reworking his art, he also began to recast his life. There would always be that strange connection between the two in the career of Harry Hervey.
Condemn Me Not
L ike unrolling a bolt of colored fabric or having figures come off a scroll, similes often invoked in the novel itself, so much came to life so fast in Hervey s writing that within three months the original short story morphed into a manuscript that would become four hundred pages of densely printed text. He claimed to be creating a book in revolt against the descending cloud of neurotic fiction as an offering to the god of romance. 1
He may have thought he was just spinning a yarn of jewel thieves and political intrigue, but he was also unconsciously revealing his twin fear and fascination of women and a strong sexual attraction to men. Like a fingerprint of literary DNA, any manuscript he d touch in these years would show evidence of this; and this distinguishing trademark would grow more pronounced in the coming years.
Social norms had relaxed somewhat in the Roaring Twenties; words like queer, gay, and fairy were being bandied about, if not positively then sophisticatedly by those of the Lost Generation. 2 With a bit more confidence, Hervey stepped up his use of double entendres and innuendo, employing minimally coded language in his novel to portray homoerotic situations, suggesting alternate interpretations to readers who could appreciate them.
For a heroine, he created the ambiguously named Dana Charteris, plucked from her bored spinsterish life in Bienville, Louisiana, a nod to the hotel of the same name his uncle Charles had managed in Mobile. Dana visits her brother Alan in India; he is enmeshed in official business trying to solve a theft of fabulous jewels. This intoxicates her and she exclaims, India! Moguls and howdahs and mosques! to which her brother scoffs in reply, India! Thugs, snakes and abominable hotels! 3
The author knows his India, a reviewer would say. He has fairly wallowed in its mysteries and seems to have caught the philosophy of this ancient people and woven it into his tale with rare skill. 4 Employing a different type of innuendo, Hervey was now also beginning to lead his reviewers and readers into believing that his knowledge of foreign lands came from first-hand experience instead of it just being information gleaned from books read in hotel lobbies.
Dana witnesses mysterious events and decides she must take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to find not just the jewels- Diamonds stripped from idols eyes -but romance. She becomes involved with two men: the mysterious and handsome Arnold Trent, of his majesty s service, and another British subject, Euan Kerth. They themselves have been pulled into the search for the jewels by the dangerously beautiful Sarojini, another one of Hervey s emasculating and devouring femme fatales characterized as a Hell-cat and a Swaying Cobra. 5 Trent has been so hurt by her that he has sworn off women entirely. Here Hervey winks quite broadly at his gay readers, explaining that Trent has turned from women to Richard, or Dicky, Manlove. Only Richard Manlove is known to have penetrated beyond the outer ramparts of Trent s seeming seclusiveness, we are told. Dicky Manlove is quite delicious, Hervey announces with an astounding lack of subtlety. 6
But man love is not to be, for Dicky is murdered in a temple at Gaya and complications ensue. The reader is carried along at breakneck speed, each advance only serving to more completely enmesh him in a web of mystery and intrigue that seems the most natural thing possible in the atmosphere created by the author, an ecstatic reviewer would write. He finds himself amidst the mosques and teeming bazaars of India, with the sights and smells of the ancient East ever present, amid the roar of Calcutta, the soupy murk of Rangoon, and the historic quiet of Delhi . The story swings into Burma-land of windblown temple bells and out into the steaming jungle with its exotic perfumes and deadly fevers. 7 Dana and Trent eventually reach Tibet, she disguised as a boy, so now the lovers even look like two men. In a city no white person has ever entered, the climax involves the Dali Lama, a figure unknown to most Westerners in this era, and the governor of the secret town, the crippled Hsien Sgam, a tragic figure-feminine and masculine, an Easterner educated in the West, and touched by both cultures. Hsien Sgam has been fouled by a past love affair with Sarojini, as well. She and the crippled Hsien Sgam are killed. Dana and Trent unite, and Kerth saves the day disguised as the Dalai Lama.
The Century Company accepted Hervey s lurid but well-written manuscript with alacrity. Titled Caravans by Night , it was announced to the trade on December 25, 1921, providing a Christmas gift for Jennie to whom he dedicated his word tapestry. 8 The book rolled off the presses in January of 1922, at a most propitious time. This was an era when the public was hungry for exotic stories. The classic film Nanook of the North debuted this year, and newspapers were filled with reports of the colorful exploits of the Prince of Wales (later Edward the VII, Duke of Windsor) in the Eastern parts of the British Empire. Readers adored his exploits, seeing him photographed in a turban and later in the uniform of a Delhi military unit, disguised, as it had been noted, very much like Hervey s hero Euan Kerth. 9 For these and other reasons, the book sold well and was translated into several languages such as German and was included as a volume in the Novels of the World series coedited by Thomas Mann. 10

The young author, ca. 1921. Photograph courtesy of the Georgia Historical Society.
Although Caravans by Night is the first book from the pen of a youth barely in his twenties, it is being accepted by the reading public as really something different from the ordinary run of mystery stories, a reviewer wrote. Another added, The plot is close-coupled and for a tale of such diverse angles, the whole is remarkable for its compactness. 11 Topping that review was one penned by Hervey s idol. Exotic fires glow in Caravans by Night, by Harry Hervey, Jr., Henry Mencken began in the Smart Set , showing his familiarity with the author, for although there is no Jr. on the title page of the novel Mencken remembered him thus. He is a young American with a truly astonishing gift for conjuring up gaudy and fantastic images. But even more, he knows how to tell a tale, Mencken glowed. The combination should take him very far in a country that dotes on romance . If you sicken of psychology and would immerse yourself a space in very wild doings under distant and chromatic skies, then I commend Caravans by Night to your attention. It will give your vertebrae a salubrious rattling. 12
The Century Company instantly popped those qualified quotes into advertisements and a second printing was ordered in April, the month of Mencken s review; a third followed in July. It seems that when H. L. Mencken has given the accolade, as he did to this rich yarn, even the highbrows are not afraid to admit their enjoyment of sheer romance, noted the press. The book, with its bright, handsome design, equally lush language and scene painting, was serialized in at least one newspaper and was popular enough to still be in print under the Grosset and Dunlap imprint twenty years later, reappearing in European editions as late as 1950. 13
With the book s success, articles about its wunderkind author appeared; one star-struck reporter exclaimed that fame had come to him first at age nine when he wrote his backyard tragedy Y Vonne . Hervey was used as an example showing how the best in America, like its athletes, were getting younger and younger. Finding himself the object of curiosity, Hervey indulged again in lurid stories, obscuring the banal facts of his past, suggesting that he had already circled the globe. Quite tellingly, he would call his own youth a manuscript (which he could edit and transpose as he wished); soon he was telling folks his life had stretched from Mosques to Main Street. Hervey was in Philadelphia when Caravans was published, ingratiating himself with older bachelor writers and critics like Sidney Williams of the Philadelphia press. With royalties streaming in, he no longer had to rely on Jennie for support and went to visit his Uncle Charles out west. 14
In a way, Caravans by Night can be seen as a deliberate fawning bid for Charles Bedell Hervey s attention. Not only had his nephew mentioned the Bienville Hotel that Charles B. Hervey had once managed but he further tipped his hat to the man by using the word Samarkand in his text-that being the name of the hotel his uncle was managing in Santa Barbara. The book s title invoking caravans and night was an allusion, too, for Uncle Charles advertised the Samarkand Hotel as one of the most beautiful and unusual Caravanasaries in the state for those seeking a place for the night. 15
Within six month of the book s appearance, Hervey was ensconced in his uncle s place in Santa Barbara, enjoying the pomp of The Samarkand and its Persian Gardens, a hotel as fabulous and improbable as a palace conjured in Caravans . Having been converted from a failed school named Boyland, it sported a vast colonnade of eighty columns along its reflection pool, terraced gardens, and endless interiors with murals done in fantastic motifs. Uncle Charles strode through these lobbies, not in coat and tie, but in a satin turban, brocaded jacket, silk bloomers and curl toed Arabian slippers. To the guests, he was The Caliph of Samarkand. 16 In this unreal setting Hervey was already hell-bent on his second romance, which he would dedicate to his uncle. He would dash it off even faster than the first, and it would be more amateurish, too. 17
This time there was a bit more of himself in his writing, with the author lending his childhood to a girl protagonist portrayed pouring over pictures of Angkor Wat in the geographic journals as he had done as a boy. 18 And just as Caravans had been expanded from an earlier short story now Hervey was revising his Black Mask story The Black Panther. It would become The Black Parrot: A Tale of the Golden Chersonese , a reference to the Malay Peninsula and Southeast Asia. Beth Corydon of the short story morphs into Lhassa Camber of the novel.
Llhasa travels to Singapore and Indonesia where she is befriended by the Frenchman Remy Barthelemy; in Bangkok, she visits a family friend murdered by a man wearing a blue slendong, similar to the gay sarong the murderer wears in the original short story, an image that would come to haunt much of Hervey s future writing. The Emerald Buddha is stolen; Lhassa is kidnapped by a man whose beauty Hervey lovingly describes. Carstairs of the short story, with a face of Dante or Byron, becomes Conquest, a Donatello or Shelley. Both take their heroines at their word-if they want romance and adventure, then they shall have it. Here Hervey is still holding to his James Branch Cabell credo, quoted on the title page: It is by the grace of Romance that man has been exalted among the other animals. Hervey may even have found the title for his yarn in Cabell s book, for John Charteris in Beyond Life is likened to a black parrot. 19
Lhassa is taken to an island where her handsome kidnapper Conquest woos her. But Lhassa is a cold woman; in fact she is the exact image of a stone figure Conquest has seen (and which Hervey saw in a photograph). An adventurer Conquest met years before spoke of a city like Angkor Wat lost in the jungles-a trope Hervey would use again; journeying there, Conquest fell in love with a stone woman whom he sees reproduced now in the flesh. Another inhabitant of the island named Salazar is intricately described as so muscled and strong that he is obscene. 20 Ultimately the male characters are killed and Lhassa remains a chaste stone goddess.
Even as he wrote it, Hervey sensed that this nonsensical romance was pretty thin stuff. I daresay that someday, having come to maturity, I shall do a novel that attempts profundity, he d come to inscribe in one critic s copy. God forbid that the time come soon! For I would rather embark on odysseys such as this-some fabulous tale, rich brocade and unreal as a fairy story-condemn me not for this and believe me-your friend Harry Hervey. 21 He finished the book in early 1923 and convinced journalists it had been another daring feat to entrust his manuscript, overdue in New York, to the newly established air mail service. But that paled to what he was planning for himself. 22
On November 22, 1922, a month after his twenty-second birthday, he had applied for a passport, effectively ending the second chapter of his life. 23 If the first one had seen him dreaming of adventure and the second had centered on him writing about it, this new chapter, his third, was going to see him living it. Fantasizing was over; the life he had lied about was about to come true at last.
The Blue Road of Romance
I n his travel papers Hervey listed his father as dead, made no mention of his mother, and listed his uncle s Samarkand Hotel as his permanent address. With utter confidence he put down his profession as novelist and reported he would take a journey of six months to Japan, Hong Kong, Palestine, Java, Singapore, British India, Egypt, Italy, Constantinople, and France. Hervey boarded The Emperor of France and sailed from San Francisco in February 1923. 1
Beautiful prose flowed from his pen as he described his quest to stalk the rainbow, following it down the Blue Road of Romance, an itinerary that would take him to places listed on his passport and trap him in occasional purple passages as well as not a few off-color sexual situations with men. The blue road was possibly code. He certainly knew blue could convey a sexual meaning, as in blue movies, for he would use the term in his writing. 2 No longer disguising or veiling his desires through his fictional heroines, he would write as frankly as he could and as the times allowed of the adventures he was having with different cultures and willing men along the way.
Two gay scandals had rocked the country in recent years, filling newspapers and outraging the general public. At the Naval Training Station in Newport, Rhode Island, a sting operation to catch men who wanted to sleep with others of their sex had pulled in a number of respected local figures, and the congressional investigation regarding sexual activity revealed, in graphically embarrassing detail, just how many young men, used as lures, had willingly shared their bodies with perverts -in service to their country. At Harvard, a student killed himself when his sexual preference was uncovered. The administration embarked on a witch hunt that would have made their Puritan ancestors proud, as it led to the destruction of the lives of many tainted with the accusation of homosexuality. 3 To openly flaunt gay behavior was to tempt the gods to destroy you. But Hervey took a chance and fittingly would title his new book Where Strange Gods Call .
As soon as the ship embarked, Hervey came face to face with an issue he would, to some extent, deal with the rest of his life. Leaning on the railing, watching the sea, he engaged in conversation with a laconic young woman not at all interested in his gushing of adventure and Joseph Conrad. In his books it had always been the reverse, the heroine in love with adventure, working to convert the prosaic males to her point of view. 4 This dichotomy, between romance and reality-as well as between masculinity and femininity-provided the fulcrums on which this book and the rest of his life would pivot.
Hawaii, his first stop, he found appalling, for instead of the healthy paganism he had envisioned, he encountered a dying culture that attested to the success of missionaries whose Victorian attitudes to proper clothing and the like Hervey found destructive. He did not want to join tourists to see the hula danced, assuming it had already become a travesty, giving in only when he realized that my reputation as a thoroughly masculine male was involved. Honolulu, a wench, once a savage, was now a courtesan, he mused; he d rework that phrase later for his description of Charleston, South Carolina. 5
Travel writing, he discovered, was a gift from the gods to the likes of Lafcadio Hearn and Pierre Loti and others able to absorb the true color and distill it into words. The rest, myself included, Hervey wrote, are voyagers who in passing catch certain pictures, authentic or not, to string on a thread with other memories and hawk them in the bazaars of print and paper. 6
After Hawaii Hervey set out for Japan, a country made real to him by Pierre Loti s book Madame Chrysanth me , a story of a French sailor who takes the title character as a wife, corrupting her almost unwillingly. Loti had described the ornate brothel scene of Nagasaki and so Hervey sought it out, as he did the spots described by the writer Lafcadio Hearn. He also met those who had known Hearn.
Here Hervey voiced his fascination with people of mixed blood, those of ambivalent sexuality, and other outlaws who transgressed social niceties. In his interview with a prostitute he wrote, I was singularly interested in this courtesan-interested in her not as a woman, but for what she suggested, going out of his way to deny any sort of sexual attraction, damaging his reputation as a thoroughly masculine male even further by describing his horror upon realizing that a young Japanese girl, misinterpreting his kindness, wanted to reward him sexually, a set piece he d detach from his narrative and publish in a magazine. Contemplating a woman he called Madame Branch of Love, he wrote, I felt sorry for this gray old courtesan who sat opposite me, that vain and unrepentant creature who lived in the memory of shameless youth. 7 Sex lives and sex workers fascinated him.
His visit to the brothels of Japan gave him the feeling that civilization had failed, that Religion had failed: and it made false the illusions of fancies of my youth; dreams of spring when young men made love and the air swooned with the sweetness of blossoming earth. Though the women were the victims in brothels, Hervey nevertheless mused on the love life of men. In China, the prostitutes again caught his attention. The very fact of their existence seemed incredibly ironic and cruel. They were superfluous lives, the result of some profligate creative scheme; a scheme that had overcrowded Canton with millions of apparently purposeless bodies whose very presence, in such a compact mass, was the cause of their extermination. 8 While other travel writers paid decorous attention to architecture and customs, Hervey did so too, with a wonderfully evocative skill, but he also honed in on those topics of interest to himself-gender and sexuality. Such topics were always easier to discuss in foreign situations, and in non-Western countries.
Meeting an attractive Shinto priest, he was conflicted. He had been perturbed about the sexual abuse of women, but now the chastity of a single man bothered him. I perceived that he was young, even handsome and sharp regret smote me, an inevitable emotion when I see youth [specifically male youth] cassocked and cowled. But then he realized that such priests did not have to be celibate and was happy to note the relation of Shintoism to ancient phallic religions. And he focused on men again while attending a theatrical performance, deriding those who impersonated women because of their lack of skill; they seemed particularly ineffectual, for the illusion they sought to create was dissipated continually by the sudden appearance of a muscular leg between folds of silken cloth. Going backstage at another performance, he was appeased. I perceived that those whom I thought women, the vermillion lipped creatures with tall aureoles, were young men or boys. 9 Soon he would follow their lead and pass himself off as a woman just as successfully.
It was almost as if he could not help straying into the off-color topics that personally fascinated him, and he loved the risk, deliberately sharing with his readers his fascination with men. By switching from third to first person, Hervey was placing himself center stage, right in the midst of the color and the action. The man he portrayed in his pages was no longer the reader of stories or even the writer of them but the wry sophisticate who had stories written about him. Visiting a cemetery Pierre Loti had written of in Madame Chrysanth me , Hervey realized he could not be like the Frenchman: For I belong to the new world, the world yo

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