What can we know of the private lives of early British sovereigns? Through the unusually large number of letters that survive from King James VI of Scotland/James I of England (1566-1625), we can know a great deal. Using original letters, primarily from the British Library and the National Library of Scotland, David Bergeron creatively argues that James' correspondence with certain men in his court constitutes a gospel of homoerotic desire. Bergeron grounds his provocative study on an examination of the tradition of letter writing during the Renaissance and draws a connection between homosexual desire and letter writing during that historical period. King James, commissioner of the Bible translation that bears his name, corresponded with three principal male favourites - Esme Stuart (Lennox), Robert Carr (Somerset) and George Villiers (Buckingham). Esme Stuart, James' older French cousin, arrived in Scotland in 1579 and became an intimate adviser and friend to the adolescent king. Though Esme was eventually forced into exile by Scottish nobles, his letters to James survive, as does James' hauntingly allegorical poem "Phoenix". The king's close relationship with Carr began in 1607.
James' letters to an imprisoned Carr reveal remarkable outbursts of sexual frustration and passion. A large collection of letters exchanged between James and Buckingham in the 1620s provides the clearest evidence for James' homoerotic desires. During a protracted separation in 1623, letters between the two raced back and forth. These artful, self-conscious letters explore themes of absence, the pleasure of letters, and a preoccupation with the body. Familial and sexual terms become wonderfully intertwined, as when James greets Buckingham as "my sweet child and wife". "King James and Letters of Homoerotic Desire" presents a modern-spelling edition of 75 letters exchanged between Buckingham and James. Across the centuries, commentators have condemned the letters as indecent or respulsive. Bergeron argues that on the contrary they reveal an inward desire of king and subject in a mutual exchange of love.
Publisher: University of Iowa Press
Number of pages: 242
Weight: 581 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 25 mm
Bergeron's exploration of letters between King James and three of his 'favorites' reveals an intimate world of collaborative homoerotics and sexual desire. The lucid, lively narrative generously includes newly collected letters between the king and George Villiers, duke of Buckingham, passionate, touching, amazing missives that will interest every reader concerned with same-sex love in any age. Allen J. Frantzen, author of "Before the Closet: Same-Sex Love from Beowulf to Angels in America ""