It is tempting to plot the change in literary expression of queer lives as a slow evolution from repression and camouflage to freedom and celebration, with multiple labels and restrictive identities being embraced into the concept of queerness. However, amidst the constant fluctuation of what categories such as invert, homosexual or androgyne might mean, were broadly accepted currents of desire that lie at best antagonistically with societal acceptance today. Indeed, the most freely expressed queer sensibility in late-nineteenth century print was arguably that which
remains most problematic: adult male writers depicting a passionate yearning for adolescent and younger boys that now seems inescapably paedophilic. Most evidently, a coterie of ‘Uranian’ writers developed, claiming Classical antecedents, whose works became increasingly libidinously charged, although the extent to which such currents were conscious is certainly open to discussion. Senate House Library is puzzlingly rich in these scarce works, alongside flyers for similar books which, whatever their content, were being insidiously marketed as offering pederastic sexual content. Aspects of these documents may be troubling, but they are potent reminders that any historical discourse that cannot look beyond poles of tolerance and prejudice is incomplete.