AAL Book Report: King James and the History of Homosexuality, Michael B. Young

Dear Typesetter Of This Book,

I know the truth. You snickered to yourself when you saw what had happened in the last paragraph of Chapter Seven, where the line spacing required the word “arsenal” to be hyphenated onto the next line.

— The Part Of My Mind That’s Twelve Years Old


Dear Michael B. Young,

Thank you for letting your snark off the leash every so often. Like when, after telling me over and over again how much Thomas Scott wanted war and was so happy when he got it, because now England was a “nursery for soldiers,” and then tossing off in two lines that he was soon thereafter murdered by a soldier and life does have its little ironies, don’t it? Or when, addressing the question of whether the people around James understood what was going on with him and his male favorites, you go through a paragraph about how the Archbishop of Canterbury deliberately prettied up Villiers and chucked him into James’ path, and what in the world did he think he was doing?

— The Part Of My Mind That Appreciates Entertaining Nonfiction


I picked this book up on the recommendation of cheshyre, to get a sense of the atmosphere of James’ court (spilling over into Charles’), and how the critics of that lifestyle bemoaned it as homosexual. It’s a pretty good read, quite short — 155 pages, not counting notes — and quick to process. Though it probably could have been shorter if the conclusion hadn’t taken twenty pages to beat you over the head with the excellent points it raised in the preceding chapters.

I have yet to actually read Bray’s book Homosexuality in Renaissance England, but this appears to be a good counter-argument to Bray’s thesis that male homosexuality at the time was only conceived of in terms of sodomy (and therefore witchcraft, the devil, popery, and the general dissolution of the world). Young acknowledges that Bray’s probably right in certain cases, that some people wandered around with “sodomy” in one compartment of their brains and “what the King does” in another compartment and determinedly didn’t connect the two, but he also quotes a number of contemporary writers who appear to have been floundering around for a word they didn’t have yet — namely, homosexuality as we now conceive of it.

Hmmm. I might have more sympathy for James’ situation if he hadn’t been such a raging misogynist at the same time. Oh well.

Good book. Now on to the next one. Mush!

0 Responses to “AAL Book Report: King James and the History of Homosexuality, Michael B. Young”

  1. mirrorred_star

    I think some part of my mind is twelve years old as well, because the mental image of that word split in just the right place is giving me giggles.

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