three pairs of lovers with space

OBITUARIES OF MICHAEL DAVIDSON, 1975

 

Michael Childers Davidson (1897-1975) was an English journalist and paederast best known for his two published memoirs. Following his death, two obituaries of him were published in the British press. Though they were hardly revealing for anyone who had read his frank autobiographies, the first at least was remarkable as perhaps the only example in British history of an obituary being published in a national daily of a man whose main claim to fame was his writings proclaiming himself a lover of boys.

 

 

THE OBSERVER 23 November 1975

The author of this review was a journalist for The Observer for thirty-five years and had crossed paths with Davidson during the years 1947-52 when he too had worked for it.

They had then fallen out of touch until 1963 when he was given Davidson’s address and wrote to him to say that he had read his first memoir and “thought it bloody good & it will have a place in the memoirs of our time. It was well worth writing & both my wife & I enjoyed reading it.”[1]

Man who broke all the rules
by Patrick O’Donovan

MICHAEL DAVIDSON has died on the small Mediterranean island of Gozo. He was 78, not famous, nor by the standards of the world, an edifying person. He could have been a great journalist and occasionally was one. He worked for THE  OBSERVER for some five years and then was ‘ let go,’ really because he did so little.

But then work did not matter much to Michael. In order of importance he liked his private life, the sun and being left alone. While breaking virtually every rule in the book, he made a host of devoted friends. He also made, as a brave journalist, a few enemies in high places, which did him no dishonor.

"Michael Davidson on the island of Gozo six weeks before his death"

Nicely born into the upper middle classes, conventionally educated, he dropped out of all the proper ways. He did not care about money---including debts, possessions; where or how he lived or what he wore. He treated Reuters news agency and various newspapers as a source of pocket money.

He served briefly in the Regular Army, worked as a tally clerk in South African docks, spied for Britain during the war, did time in Wormwood Scrubs for his sexual proclivities, lived the life of a pauper, opened car doors in Rome for the tips, had grand friends who accepted his ‘ little ways.’

He wrote an excellent book called ‘The World, the Flesh and Myself,’ which is as nearly honest as is possible. Reviewers shied away from its homosexual themes, though it was not pornography. I do not think he ever corrupted anyone, though he was recklessly promiscuous. He travelled a great deal, though the world, in its disapproval, tended to close up behind him.

He was prodigiously wrinkled, spry, witty, full of laughter, a slightly secretive old satyr. He disclaimed any physical courage but attended a large number of small wars. In Korea, at an American briefing when some leathery military spokesman talked once again of attacks by ‘hordes of Chinese,’ Michael asked quietly: ‘Could you say how many battalions there are in a Chinese horde?’ They never forgave him.

He did a fair-minded interview with a Stern Gang spokesman in the heat of battle and behaved nobly on an opposition newspaper during the troubles in Cyprus. It may sound odd, but he was at once one of the most idle, conscientious and honest men I have ever known. And I do not write this only because he was a friend whom I helped insufficiently.

 

The author of the above obituary shed some light on its publication in a letter a month later to Michael Rickey of The Royal Institute of Navigation:

I don’t know why The Observer used that small piece. I think it was genuinely good of them to do it. I have had a lot of letters about it, not one of them ill tempered or censorious. Perhaps honesty really does pay. He was the most utterly pagan person I ever knew. This was part of his innocence and guiltlessness. I do not know if he was a happy man, but I know that he and I had some enchantingly amusing times when our Observer paths crossed in ludicrous parts of the world.[2]

 

 

GAY NEWS [?]

The newspaper in which the following obituary was published has not been ascertained, but was probably the fortnightly Gay News, since the author was then its literary editor.

Michael Davidson, an appreciation
by Peter Burton

MICHAEL DAVIDSON died on the island of Gozo on November 19 aged 78. He is probably best known as the author of the autobiographical work The World, The Flesh And Myself—first published in 1962 and reprinted in 1973.

Throughout his life Michael Davidson was a paederast. He was twice charged with offences arising out of his appetites, and once imprisoned. Various fields of employment—some connected with government—were closed to him after the discovery of the nature of his sexuality.

Journalism, however, was one field which always remained open to Davidson. He worked in journalism in Berlin from 1928 until 1933, when, as a member of the German Communist Party, he had to flee the country. He was in North Africa for a time during the Second World War, and was imprisoned as a spy. He was in Malaya at the time of the struggle for independence, in Cyprus, Korea (getting an honourable mention in Phillip Knightley’s fascinating book about war correspondents, The First Casualty) and in Vietnam.

Courageous

The World, The Flesh And Myself—which opens with the line “This is the life-history of a lover of boys”—was a courageous book to publish in 1962. Davidson was in the vanguard of honest autobiographers—and this book comes well before TC Worsley’s Flannelled Fool (1967), and a good ten years before Robin Maugham’s Escape From The Shadows.

The World, The Flesh And Myself, though out of print for some time, is one of the handful of books still freely circulating on the position of the paederast and stands as an important achievement in the difficult art of autobiography.

Some Boys

Michael Davidson published one further book—another autobiographical sequence: Some Boys. Unfortunately the book suffered from bad printing, worse proofing, and, due to a series of problems beyond Michael’s control, whole passages from the book were omitted by the printer. Some Boys, however, is a book of great charm with happy evocation of places, and affectionate word-pictures of boys Michael had loved in his travels around the world.

I met Michael in 1968, and two years later was in the happy position of being able to commission a short story from him. Working with Michael—as editor to contributor—showed him at his best as a writer, at his most professional as a journalist, at times at his most difficult. But we were both, I think, very happy with the way Atti Innominabili came out in the end, in the first issue of Jeremy I edited.

The future had looked bleak for Michael, he was old, he was sick, his constant wanderings must have been a strain. Let us hope that he has now found peace at last.

       

[1] Letter of 10 April 1963 (Michael Davidson Archive in the present editor’s custody).

[2] Copy of letter of 29th December 1975 in the Michael Davidson Archive in the present editor’s custody.