A photograph of John Minton.
In the Volumes of ‘The Listener’ that I own are curious features and letters. Below is a set-to between Dr. Marie Stopes and John Minton in the letters pages about Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality and the views of homosexuality as a whole in British society.
Homosexuality was still illegal in Great Britain in 1950 and yet John Minton was openly gay and lived at this time with his partner Ricky Stride, a bodybuilding ex-sailor. Marie Stopes set up the first birth control clinic as a way to implement eugenic beliefs she had within the Galton Institute (Even in the 50s long after it was ‘fashionable-thought’). She cut her son out of her will as he married a short-sighted woman (the daughter of ‘dam buster’ Barnes Wallis) and that she believed his children would inherit this condition.
The homophobic views of Stopes are ones that have echoed throughout time unjustly and Minton’s defence is bold. Ten years later it would be the London of David Hockney and free love, but in post-war Britain, the prejudices and intolerance where rife as the country struggled with Christianity and meaning for what they had just ‘fought for’.
Re: Oscar Wilde and Alfred Douglas – January, 5th, 1950.
Sir, It is indeed extraordinary that Herbert Read should state in your pages that ‘Lord Alfred Douglas emerges as the most complete cad in history’ simply on the basis of the hysterical and deranged outpourings of Oscar Wilde in prison. Wilde was then in a condition which any psychiatrist can recognise as bordering on insanity owing to the excessive shock to his self-esteem of prison, and the exposure of the abnormal and filthy practices which he had been indulging in with stable boys.
One has only to look at the portrait of the gross middle-aged abnormal man in his forties beside the exquisite body and face of the young man in the early twenties who is supposed to have ruined the experienced elder to realise that Herbert Read has a curious sense of values.
Lord Alfred Douglas’ magnificent sonnets (broadcast not long ago as being second only to those of Shakespeare) and the facts of his sensitiveness and his generosity to Wilde will outlive such malignancy as is current at the moment.
– Yours, etc. Dr Marie Stopes. Dorking †
Re: Dr Marie Stopes – January, 12th, 1950.
Sir, In her letter concerning Wilde and Douglas it is indeed distressing that someone of Dr. Marie Stopes’ eminence should refer to Wilde’s homosexuality with such bigoted moral fervour. The enormous contribution made throughout history, particularly in the arts-to society by homosexuals should surely make for a more tolerant and sympathetic understanding than to refer with such scorn to Wilde’s ‘abnormal and filthy practices’. In this country where the same vicious law which imprisoned Wilde still operates one looks to those with pretensions to a scientific approach not to be victims of prejudice and intolerance but to give a lead for at least a saner and more comprehensive attitude towards the homosexual in society.
– Yours, etc. John Minton. London, N.W.8 ‡
John Minton – Ricky Stride.
† The Listener – 1950. Vol XLIII #1093
‡ The Listener – 1950. Vol XLIV #1094