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three pairs of lovers with space


The joyful life of Edwin Emmanuel Bradford

By C. Caunter,  December 2022[1]


A much expanded version of the essay below has been included in a new anthology published by Arcadian Dreams, London in the spring of 2023: My Love Is Like All Lovely Things. Selected Poems of E. E. Bradford.


The Reverend Edwin Emmanuel Bradford (1860–1944) was one of the Uranians, that group of late-19th-century and early-20th-century poets and prose writers who, often taking inspiration from the classical world, sang the praises of the love between boys and men and advocated its rehabilitation. Virtually his entire poetic body of work – twelve volumes that appeared between 1908 and 1930 – is dedicated openly to this theme. Rather than looking back to classical antiquity, it is rooted largely in Bradford’s own time and experience.

Although his poetry was remarkably well-received in his day, its occasional moralising, a general view of Uranian poetry as saccharine and second-rate, and a distaste among many for his subject matter have since stood in the way of a recognition of Bradford’s talent. At its best, his work is exhilaratingly fresh, original and at once joyful and touching. It is a self-assured, unapologetic affirmation of what is good and beautiful. This makes him very relevant to today’s readers – but as is the case with many Uranian authors, Bradford has not been written about in much depth. The present article is intended to give a fuller picture of his life and work.

1        ‘That walk to Berry Pomeroy’: childhood

Edwin Emmanuel Bradford was born into the upper middle class in the southwestern English county of Devon. His mother, Maria Wellman,[2] was from a farming family in Hawkchurch, a village tottering on the border of Devon and Dorset – so much so that it was classed as lying now in one county, now in the other, until being assigned definitively to Devon. In 1844, Maria married Edwin Greenslade Bradford in an Anglican ceremony in her hometown of Hawkchurch. Edwin’s family was from the village of Wolborough in Devon.[3] His father James was a watchmaker whose four sons James, Edwin, Denis and Emmanuel followed in his trade.

The first four children of Edwin Greenslade Bradford and Maria Wellman were born in Teignmouth, the latter four in Torquay.[4] In 1851 the family were living at 8 Strand, a seaside boulevard in Torquay, with two live-in servants. Edwin was a goldsmith and watchmaker. In 1855 one of his employees, William Easterbrook, was charged with stealing a silver brooch he’d been asked to work on, as well as some tools from the shop. He was found not guilty, but was cautioned not to take his master’s property home on loan without permission again.[5] In 1857 the Bradfords’ firstborn son, Edwin Reginald, died at the age of nine – the only one of their children to die in childhood. Given the rate of child mortality at the time, this may be a testament to the good standard of living the Bradfords enjoyed. One more child was born afterwards: Edwin Emmanuel, the later poet. Born at 9 Strand, Torquay on 21 August 1860,[6] he received the first name originally bestowed on his late brother. His middle name stemmed from his uncle Emmanuel Bowbeer Bradford, who had died at the age of twenty-three.[7]

Edwin Emmanuel was baptised at St Luke’s Church, Warren Hill, Torquay. In 1861, the family was living at 9 Strand, his father listed as a goldsmith and marble mason. Living in with the family were a cook, a nurse and a housemaid. The 1871 census is the final snapshot of the family with the parents alive. Edwin Sr is recorded as a jeweller and silversmith, assisted by his eldest daughters Ella and Amelia. Son George Frank is not at home; the other four children, down to ten-year-old Edwin Emmanuel, are in school. There are two servants. Young Edwin boarded at The Castle College, a preparatory school perched on a rocky eminence in Torquay where learning was imparted to ‘the sons of gentlemen only between the ages of seven and fourteen’.[8] The school advertised Torquay’s mild climate as ‘specially suited for the residence of delicate and Indian Boys’. Castle prepared its pupils for the public schools, the Royal Navy and other examinations; it made good on its reputation in the case of Edwin, who would go up to Oxford.

Torquay. The Castle College

                The Castle College (also called The Castle School), Torquay

Torquay. The Castle School

Advertisement for The Castle School, Torquay, c. 1890

Bradford’s poetry divulges a thing or two about his childhood. Caution must be exercised when sifting a person’s artistic output for autobiographical information. While his poems are usually personal in tone, expressing thoughts and experiences in the first person, one generally can’t be sure what is based on actual experience and which events and persons were given shape by the imagination. Sometimes, however, indications go strongly one way or the other. Bradford liked citing boys’ names in his poems – a key factor in enhancing their immediacy and appeal – and such names seem clearly invented when particularly euphonic and helpful for the rhyme (‘Returning from Church on a fine June night, / With a shy little fellow called Merrivale White’; ‘O Paddy Maloy is a broth of a boy’). In other cases, events recounted concur with the known biography (e.g., the travelogue poem ‘In Quest of Love’ mentions a visit to Switzerland, and a resident of Nordelph where Bradford was parish priest recalled that the Reverend visited Switzerland[9]), and it is reasonable to assume their general agreement with his actual life.

With this in mind, there is every possibility that Bradford was writing autobiographically when he recalled in the poem ‘Boy Friends’[10] that on first going to boarding school, he thought the term would never end. But he made a friend, Jack, who on a walk with him to Berry Pomeroy – a ruined castle several miles inland from Torquay – told him where each ship seen down in the bay was bound, showed him the castle’s dungeons and, at dusk, pointed out the stars. On the way home, the talk was ‘of life and love and God’. Bradford remembered the walk with Jack as a key event in his development: ‘And now it always seems to me / That walk to Berry Pomeroy / Marks out just when I ceased to be / A child, and first became a boy!’[11]An alternative take, of course, is that this castle ruin – a stiff walk indeed from Torquay –was chosen as a happy rhyme for ‘boy’. In the aforementioned travel poem ‘In Quest of Love’, he confides another apparent boyhood recollection: ‘My friend, a merry Irish boy, / Made sport of all. In careless play / We passed the livelong summer’s day, / And Love seemed but an idle toy. // But once, as on the sands we lay, / We kissed: and thereupon a flame / Of passion pure that knows no shame / Showed love full-grown. March passed to May // Without an April.’ Bradford goes on to call this friend the first and last love of his boyhood.

On 1 September 1873, when Bradford had just turned thirteen, his mother Maria died of liver disease.[12] ‘One night,’ he later recalled, ‘I raised a mound of pillows high / To represent her form, that I might cry / As ’twere upon her bosom.’[13] Following this loss, his father’s mental and physical health took a downward turn. Edwin Sr began to suffer from a pain in his throat, which he felt was going up into his head. He would often hear a voice that said: “What are you doing here? One half of you is buried in the grave.” He made one of his daughters promise that if he went out of his mind, she would not send him to an asylum. His own father, James, was once placed under restraint for insanity and ended his days in a lunatic asylum.[14] On 16 May 1874, shortly before midnight, Edwin Greenslade Bradford snuck out of bed and took a bread knife to his own tormented throat. The next morning, a recently hired domestic servant found him bled out on the landing.[15] Orphaned at the age of thirteen, Edwin Jr – insofar as he wasn’t at boarding school – would have been left in the care of his elder siblings and perhaps of his uncles Denis and James, who had been trading on nearby Victoria Parade (jewels fashioned by the Bradfords still come up for sale). At the time of the 1891 census, four of his siblings still lived at the parental address, 9 Strand, where his eldest sister Ella had continued her father’s jewellery business.

2          ‘Love shone around me’: Oxford and the pilgrimage years

Bradford, freshly turned 21, entered Exeter College, Oxford University in October 1881 to study theology,[16] his two elder brothers having gone to the same college before him. In June of that year, 17-year-old Samuel Elsworth Cottam from Manchester had enrolled there; he and Bradford became lifelong friends, and Cottam’s 1930 collection Cameos of Boyhood and Other Poems was to earn him his own star in the Uranian pantheon. The English universities at this time had a thriving homosexual subculture fed by the public schools, with close social contact between dons and undergraduates.[17], [18] Philhellenist-inspired homosociality was prevalent particularly at Oxford at the time Bradford was there. What’s more, the Oxford Movement, a circle of men who sought to associate the Anglican Church more closely with Roman Catholicism, was devoted to classical culture and was suspected of harbouring homosexual sympathies.[19] Bradford, too, started out an Anglo-Catholic.[20] The study of the classical world made it clear that there had been sophisticated civilisations with an entirely different take on same-sex relations, and their intersection with pedagogy, from contemporary Britain’s.

It is plausible to seek in this educational environment the root of Bradford’s self-confident embrace not just of boy love’s acceptability and compatibility with Christianity, but of its uniquely virtuous nature which to him made the love of women look shoddy by comparison. It should also be kept in mind, however, that when as a boy he and an Irish friend kissed on the sands (as claimed in the poem ‘In Quest of Love’), ‘a flame / Of passion pure that knows no shame / Showed Love full-grown.’ The poem ‘Side to Side’, which may refer to the same friend, says dark suspicion marked them out as guilty of a ruthless crime – ‘but us nor doubt nor scorn dismayed’.[21] In other words, his acceptance of his own sexuality may have been an instinct predating his time at university, where it was affirmed and reinforced. Moreover, rather than causing him to be morally conflicted, Christianity was central to Bradford’s construction of his sexual identity. He saw beauty on earth as an expression of the divine; the celebration of beauty therefore equalled the celebration of God.[22]

Bradford graduated with a Third Class honours B.A. in Theology in 1884[23] and took holy orders that same year, becoming a deacon in the parish of High Ongar in Essex.[24] His ordination as priest followed the next year.[25] He was known to play the piano and organ;[26] if this was not an integral part of the skills taught to the clergy, it must have formed part of his good upbringing. At the start of 1887 he was appointed curate of St Saviour’s, Walthamstow, a fast-growing parish now in East London.[27] The reference must be to London when in his travel poem ‘In Quest of Love’ he writes: ‘In that old city, ever young […] I sought the love that David sung. […] A few I found, yet found I few / Who knew the love that brings no tears.’

By all accounts (notably his own), Bradford was a well-travelled man who enjoyed seeing the world and interacting with it. Before the year was out he became assistant chaplain in the Anglican church in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where he stayed until 1889.[28] Anyone who wishes to speculate that Bradford may have left a given parish or location in the wake of a scandal (or to forestall one) is free to do so, but there is no record of any such controversy ever attaching to him. He waxes lyrical about Saint Petersburg and its inhabitants in ‘In Quest of Love’ – and in these lines there speaks a love and admiration for mankind that we find repeatedly in his work:

And Love illumed that Northern strand
     Where three brief years I made my home.
     No brighter shines the golden dome
Of Isaac’s vast cathedral grand,

That like a star above the foam
     Of Finland’s fretful waters gleams,
     Than shines the Love that haunts the dreams
Of mystic Slavs. Dark as the loam

That forms their virgin soil, and teems
     With riches inexhaustible,
     Their hearts volcanic, deep as hell,
Are treasuries from whence there streams           

The crystal fount of Friendship. Fell
     Their wrath may blaze, and passionate
     Against injustice burns their hate,
But all who learn to love them well           

Find underneath their fight with fate
     An ardour for humanity,
     A love in essence heavenly,
Selfless, sublime, immaculate.

It is to Bradford’s stay in Russia that we owe such ballads as ‘The Russian Conscript’, ‘“So as by Fire”’ (‘Sidney Swann, the motor-driver, when a lad of seventeen, / Went to Russia with his master, Count Dmitri Galitzin’), ‘The Russian Cobbler’ and ‘Ivàn and Yefim’, all from his first collection, and such stories as ‘The land of the Tsars: A Holiday Adventure’. His stories began to appear in boys’ magazines – The Captain, Chatterbox, The Boy’s Own Paper, Young England, Young Men – by the 1890s, well before his poetry collections came out.[31] They are competently written adventure yarns set in different countries; gallant friendship and exalted sentiments between boys form a common thread. The theme of a boy befriending and protecting a smaller, weaker boy crops up more than once.

Bradford. Our trip to Mycenae   BOA Vol18

Bradford’s serial ‘Our Trip to Mycenæ’ appeared in The Boy’s Own Paper in 1896

In ‘Bear Hunting In Russia and Out of It’, published in the Chatterbox Christmas-box annual for 1900, the narrator is invited over to Russia by his uncle, a consul at Saint Petersburg. As the uncle knows him and the schoolboy Reggie Edwards to be ‘inseparables’, the latter is also invited. Reggie is nicknamed Monkey because he’s always up to some monkey trick, and in turn calls his friend an old bear for sometimes acting bearish to him. During a snowball fight out in the country the two get lost in the forest and are chased up a pine tree by a bear. I don’t propose that this particular adventure might be autobiographical, but where the two heroes travel to the Valdai Hills between Saint Petersburg and Moscow and the narrator proclaims these hills ‘a swindle—such gentle slopes that you hardly know when you are at the top or when you are at the bottom’, Bradford appears to be drawing on his personal recollections and, in this case, to take his revenge on a disappointing geographical feature. Likewise, it is Bradford the traveller who speaks in ‘A Boy Isvoschik’, a Chatterbox story from 1895, of ‘that peculiarly gentle expression one so often sees in young Russians, especially among the peasantry’. In this story an Englishman hails a ride from a desperately poor teenage isvoschik or sledge-driver in Saint Petersburg.

Another tale of Russian inspiration, ‘Boris Orloff’, appeared in The Boy’s Own Paper, a magazine published by the Religious Tract Society to which Bradford contributed various stories. Originally published in 1893, this story is notable because it was posthumously reissued in 1968 as ‘Boris Orloff: A Christmas Yarn’ in a limited edition by antiquarian bookseller and Uranian biographer Timothy d’Arch Smith. The story is narrated by an English adolescent who embarks on a romantic friendship with Artie, a boy a few years younger. To his and Artie’s mutual distress, the narrator is sent to live with his father, first secretary to the British embassy at Saint Petersburg. Here he befriends a strange, golden-haired, wild little Russian (or in fact Ukrainian) boy ‘untouched by western civilisation’, Boris Orloff, who looks startlingly like his friend back in England. He writes about his new friend to Artie, and the jealousy thus kindled is eventually resolved in a dramatic way.

From his appointment in Saint Petersburg, Bradford moved on to Paris, where in 1890 he became vicar of the Anglican St George’s Church in rue Auguste Vacquerie.[32] Recently arrived, he was one of the two clergymen who read the service at the funeral of art collector and Francophile Sir Richard Wallace in July 1890.[33] Bradford’s friend Samuel Elsworth Cottam, first met when both were undergraduates, was also a curate at St George’s at the time Bradford was there. Cottam befriended one of the choirboys, the son of an English hatter in Paris, who was to become his literary executor and to edit his posthumous Friends of My Fancy and Other Poems (1960).[34] This felicitous friend, Leonard Ashley Willoughby (1885–1977), became professor of German at the University of London and a Goethe specialist, and donated Cottam’s collection of Uranian materials to the British Museum.[35] If Bradford, for his part, has something to show for his time in Paris that has come down to us, it’s the fact that back in England he continued to enjoy conversing in French,[36] a language he seems to have acquired through methodical study.[37] Aside from being widely read in English literature from centuries past down to his own time (as is evident from his writings), he also read French works such as Hugo’s Les Misérables, whether or not in the original.[38]

Cottam Samuel Elsworth

Bradford’s friend, fellow curate and fellow Uranian Samuel Elsworth Cottam

Curiously, although Bradford lived in Paris much longer than he did in Saint Petersburg, France doesn’t seem to have found its way into his writings as much as Russia. He remained at St George’s in Paris until 1899, completing a twelve-year stint abroad.[39], [40] His travel poem, ‘In Quest of Love’, concurs: ‘Love shone around me, like the bow / That spanned the Flood, when staff in hand / A pilgrim from my native land, / Twelve years I journeyed to and fro.’ If this poem can be taken on its word, he visited various other destinations in Europe and North Africa – combining, perhaps, the Grand Tour legacy with an exploration of the freedoms afforded by other cultures. He doubtless relied on family money more than on his clerical stipends. In Vienna, he often wandered with ‘thoughtful youth or careless boy, / And tasted the pathetic joy / Of fleeting Fancy’. Finding Vienna a majestic city, he calls Paris dark and chill by contrast. In Switzerland he passed an ‘unearthly’ summer night at Fribourg, when he shared ‘the words of Plato’ with two young men and was able to edify them with a sense of the nobility ‘Of that high love which lay till then / Deep in the hearts of these young men / Unprized—as pearls lie in the sea.’

Near the seaside town of Scheveningen, the Netherlands (not the kind of archetypal location, like Italy, or mellifluous placename you’d come up with for a poem if you hadn’t been there), he stole upon two boys in the throes of love’s madness in the grass by the beach. He ‘Surprised their secret (which I wis // Was no great crime) and at a word / Became their friend. For half the day / Beside the dancing waves we lay / As careless as the wild sea-bird.’ In the evening, worn out, the three of them wandered home to The Hague, where Bradford evidently had his lodgings. In Flanders, the occasional youthful fisher held him spellbound for an hour by unfolding the story of his life. Meanwhile, heavy barges piled with bales would crawl down the canal, ‘and far the land / Seemed all alive with moving sails.’ Most Flemish boys, says Bradford, are strong, handsome, auburn-headed and tall, with clear blue eyes.

In a park in Brussels, on a holiday, he chanced upon a boy of twelve, frail and nearly blind. Although the boy spoke to him in refined ‘French of Paris’ (outdoing Chaucer’s Prioress), he swore like a trooper. Bradford detected beneath his chatter a lonely heart, but ‘Set free / The torrent of his love, so long / Pent up, flowed tow’rd me, full and strong, / And when we parted suddenly // As we had met, amid the throng / That filled the pleasure-loving city, / My little comrade, bright and witty, / Haunted, and haunts me, like a song’. Bradford concludes the anecdote by remarking that he thinks such cases are not rare, and ‘Most of the gay deserve our pity!’[41]

Bradford’s character sketch of Italian boys is complicated, calling their heart ‘weak / And womanish; its kindness flecked // By careless cruelty; of meek / Subservient temper, but withal / Proud’. He and a party went by barque into the Blue Grotto, a sea cave forming part of the island of Capri. Capri was at the time a prized destination for well-heeled devotees of Greek love. Relaxing naked in the azure sea inside the grotto was a lovely youth who, in the light that filtered in, had ‘silvery skin with changeful hue’. The party in the boat gazed on him in awe and, commenting to each other on the marvellous effects of the light, made veiled reference to their admiration for the boy.[42] In Spain, where boys are ‘Warm-hearted, brave, and frankly vain’, Bradford sat in an inn waiting for his train when a boy divine in beauty joined him at his table, flirted by means of a fan[43] and told him in the available space of twenty minutes ‘how he spent / His daily life; what gave him pain, // What joy; where lay his natural bent; / His friends and foes, alive and dead, / And all they did, and all they said. / Believe me, twenty minutes spent // With such a boy sufficed to wed / Our souls for ever! When I rose, / I shook his hand—but he came close, / Kissed, and incontinently fled.’

The Moors, Arabs and Jews around Tangier, Morocco did not impress Bradford. Espousing the crass language of ethnic stereotyping of his time, he refers to these ‘once proud peoples’ as ‘knaves void of grace’ and ‘barbaric hordes’. He laments that love is expressed there in a way he characterises as ‘Wild, savage, sensual, stript bare // Of all but primal instinct.’ In Algeria, however, he and a ‘pure-blood’ Arab lad ascended mount Beni Salàh at sunrise. On high, far from the world and near the skies, they drew together and lay on the springy turf. In a tone that betrayed no self-pity, the boy told him that while still a child he had loved a Frenchman and had himself become ‘French in heart and mind’. But the Frenchman had left him, and the boy had resigned himself to his fate in the ‘Oriental’ way. Bradford’s last impression of his companion was formed as they went down the mountain at sunset. The boy carried a gun on his shoulder, his dark eyes keeping watch against surprise, ‘For foes grow bold when day is done.’ Did this risky tryst, too, really happen, or should this particular poetic vignette be understood as an Arabian-Nights-like tale, perhaps of a kind doing the rounds among the Uranians? André Gide had not yet published his account of his own adventures in Tunisia and Algeria, so his experiences could not have furnished Bradford with a blueprint.[44]

Bradford enjoyed a bright, though brief stay in Greece, where prayer beads fulfilled much the same function as the hand fan in Spain and where he admired the graceful gaiety of Athenian boys gathered in an outdoor theatre. He recalls an instance when a boy dared him to chase him up the steep Acrocorinth, the acropolis of ancient Corinth. Indeed, he defied Bradford to kiss him, but never let himself be caught. Turkish boys were rated obsequiously humble by the poet; even so, he confesses he highly prized their love. Near the Outer Bridge spanning the Golden Horn (the primary inlet of the Bosphorus in Istanbul) he often met a barefooted beggar boy, ‘clean though ragged’. ‘Up the street / On seeing me he wildly raced, / Caressed me, fondled me, embraced— / All for a few piastres. […] He placed // His cheek on mine, he rubbed my knee, / Tickled my throat, played with my hand— / And all to make me understand / His impecuniosity!’[45]

Returning to England (‘They love her most, I ween, who furthest roam’[46]), he concluded that although love existed there, too, it was ignored unless bound by chains of marriage. ‘In Britain boys are friendless’, he declares, lacking kind and true protectors.[47] In these circumstances people resorted to defiling love and ‘hiring in a fetid den / Its venal substitute.’ Enriched by his experience of many cultures, Bradford looked on his native country ‘with eyes / Lit with the light of other skies, / Keen with experience to bore // Through crust of custom’. He went on to do just that, publishing a raft of poetry books that simply had – and have – no truck with the morals prevailing in the society around him.

3          ‘Only the other side of the house is falling’: Eton, Upwell, Nordelph

Back in England, Bradford was curate of St. John’s, the parish church of Eton, Buckinghamshire (now in Berkshire) from 1899 to 1905.[48] The 1901 census has him living at 128 High Street. He continued to write stories, and the papers listed him as among the reputable authors of storiettes for the boys’ magazines.[49] In 1902 his name was described as being ever and anon noticeable in many of the magazines.[50] He resumed his studies, obtaining an M.A. in 1901[51] and a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1904.[52] On Sundays he would celebrate Holy Communion at 8 a.m., there would be Matins and a sermon at 11 a.m., a children’s catechising service at 3 p.m., and Evensong and a sermon at 6:30 p.m.[53] Who’s Who in Gay & Lesbian History calls his career in the Church of England undistinguished,[54] which must be a reference not to the hard-to-quantify level of satisfaction of his various congregations about his qualities as a preacher and pastor, but rather to his not having risen high in the ecclesiastical ranks, and perhaps to his not having produced an influential theological body of work. True enough, if we don’t count the theology of boy love as expressed in his poetry, only his first book is theological in nature: Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year, published by Skeffington & Son in 1907. The book presents 57 sermon outlines intended as suggestions for young clergymen who are beginning to preach by heart as well as for overworked old salts.

More than anything, the sermon outlines provide a platform for his take on a range of issues suggested by Bible texts. They probably give a fair idea of what he liked to preach about. Some of the notions he sets out are not strictly related to Biblical exegesis, as when at the outset he argues that the old European ideal of chivalry led to the fatuous worship of women. He approvingly cites Saint Paul’s remark that it is ‘good for a man not to touch a woman’. He calls for a New Chivalry, inspired by ‘the glorious optimism of Christianity’, that does battle on behalf of the weak and the oppressed – whether they are ‘fair damsels’ or ‘starving men, women or children, who perhaps have grown up under conditions which have made physical beauty out of the question.’[55] He further exhorts to joyfulness and cautions against needless worry: ‘If God be for us who can be against us?’[56] On willpower he says: ‘We are so strong in our God-given free-will that all the devils in hell cannot resist us.’[57]

The sermon outlines are markedly different in tone from Bradford’s poems in the sense that the former warn against temptation, evil desires, bad passions and the sins of the flesh, whereas the latter are more typically joyously sensual, whether or not the sensuality is given a spiritual spin. Much depends, of course, on the definition of ‘sins of the flesh’; Bradford mentions by name the sin of fornication.[58] Fornication meaning consensual sex between two persons not married to each other, this does not bode well for boy love, since you can’t marry a boy.[59] It’s more likely that he is thinking about licentiousness between unmarried men and women. However it may be, the impression one gets is that, between these remonstrances against sin (plus the comparatively coy first volume of poetry) and the later poetry, Bradford – perhaps emboldened by his fellow Uranian penmen – ‘got his courage up’.[60]

Bradford’s next curacy was at Christ Church in the village of Upwell, Norfolk, where he stayed from 1905 to 1909.[61] In 1908, twenty-nine fictional vignettes set at different public schools, first featured in Young England between 1900 and 1905, were published by Arthur H. Stockwell as Stories of Life at Our Great Public Schools.[62] Bradford had visited all twenty-nine schools, consulting with the schoolboys to verify his details, and some of the boys were credited as co-writers. Dramatic yarns of derring-do and gallantry, the stories bring out local jargon and customs and exude Bradford’s ‘wonted reverence toward boyhood’.[63] The first one is set at Eton (where he himself, to be clear, was connected not with the college but with the parish church) and tells about fearful new boy Reggie Winton overcoming his tremors to score the winning goal in his first football match, but at the cost of a broken leg.

Eagle Annual 5

An illustration from Eagle Annual 5 (1955). British boys’ magazines as a forum for boys to focus on the exploits of other boys and men were popular from the Victorian era into the 1960s.

Typifying the way Bradford’s public-school stories link virtuous activity with an admirable physique,[64] the story set at Radley College sees buff older boy Chris sacrificing his own interests to protect others, particularly delicate little Steevie Corda, and in the process becoming an image of Christ (albeit one steeped in Muscular Christianity).[65] Chris is described as follows: ‘fair, curly hair, like little ringlets of gold, clustered around his broad white forehead. When his shirt was unbuttoned at the throat, and his sleeves rolled up above the elbows, as they soon were, Steevie could catch a glimpse of his deep broad chest, and see the muscles ripple all over his firm round arms at every movement that he made. But it was his eyes that struck his admirer the most… They had a curious, fearless and loving look, as if they heartily liked everything they rested upon.’

Also in 1908, Bradford’s first collection of poetry was published by the prominent firm of Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Company.[66] He undertook to fund Sonnets Songs & Ballads himself, paying thirty-eight pounds and five shillings to have five hundred copies printed.[67] The technically accomplished poems dwell on a miscellany of dramatic themes, from the boyhood of Saint Dunstan through sailors risking their life at sea to fights with foes that come in the shape now of a mad wolf, now of the bottle. A delightful miniature, ‘The Canon and the Chorister’, tells of a choirboy who has sung a solo in a crowded church; when afterwards he visits his uncle, a canon, uncle is all ears and they talk of nothing else. At home the boy learns his uncle is about to become a bishop, but uncle had been too modest to mention it and the boy had been full only of himself. Underneath this lesson in modesty shimmers the subtext that the uncle was so delighted to see his nephew and so interested in him that he didn’t want to waste time discussing his own business. ‘Lines on Seeing a Child Bathing’ reflects: ‘Some say man’s beauty is but bait for love, / As birds in breeding time wear plumage bright: / How can this be, when He who rules above, / Still makes a child like this more fair to sight / Than any woman?’ Although the volume is demure by comparison to what followed, the homoerotic content – taken as a whole – was plain for those with eyes to see. The critics, at any rate, did not object.

In 1909 followed Bradford’s last move, an appointment to a parish of his own. On the nomination of Christ Church rector Charles Francis Townley, he became vicar of Holy Trinity church in the village of Nordelph in Norfolk, very close to his preceding curacy of Upwell.[68] The ecclesiastical parish of Nordelph was created with his appointment. If the village, with a population then as now of a few hundred, lay isolated in the level Fenlands and its church was ‘probably the most remote of all Norfolk churches’,[69] there is no indication that Bradford was intentionally banished to such remoteness in order to be stowed safely out of sight. Nor is it the case that he pined away in his country parish: when the poet John Betjeman visited him in 1935, he noted that the Sunday service was fairly well attended, and Bradford told him he was very happy at Nordelph.[70] According to a grandniece of Bradford’s last housekeeper, the Reverend was eccentric but well-loved, and in 2006 elderly people in the area still remembered him with affection.[71]

Nordelph, situated close to the border with Cambridgeshire, lies on the banks of a canal, and the flat surrounding landscape is crisscrossed with drainage channels. In the not terribly distant past, the village had been impoverished and disease-infested; in 1848, a third of the 150 inhabitants contracted cholera before sanitary measures were taken.[72] Betjeman in 1935 described ‘a village of 2-storey houses most of them sloping on unsafe foundations’.[73] Holy Trinity church was opened in 1865, built of red brick with a tiny iron spire above the intersection of nave and transepts – ‘nothing fancy’, in the words of famed architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner, although he rated the stained-glass east window (depicting the conversion of Saint Paul and the martyrdom of Saint Stephen) excellent. The church was sizeable for the village, with a high and bright interior and light wood furnishings. The Anglican services had competition from the Methodists, whose Victoria Chapel predated Holy Trinity by four years. The vicarage where Bradford lived was also substantial, a tall building with three steeply sloping roofs and several prominent, slender chimneys. In the 1911 census, Bradford was living there with his 27-year-old cook and housekeeper, Gertrude Mary Bellamy from the nearby hamlet of Lake’s End. Notwithstanding the stately appearance of the vicarage, Betjeman described it as flimsy and its hall as ‘dark, grim black line… Terribly poor.’ The house was shored up; it was sinking into the ground due to the soil subsidence that plagued the village. Bradford assured Betjeman it was quite safe where they were sitting: “Only the other side of the house is falling. I’m not bothered.”[74]

Bradfords Nordelph vicarage

The vicarage at Nordelph, Bradford’s home for 34 years

Bradford by Nordelph school

                                                            Bradford outside the school in Nordelph

Bradford kept busy in his new post. Crowning his formal education, he penned a thesis arguing that Saint Paul contradicts himself on the subject of free will, which earned him a Doctor of Divinity degree in 1912.[75] He also set about modifying the environment to suit his tastes. He had the village boys dig a swimming pool next to the vicarage and pile the excavated soil to resemble small mountains to remind him of Switzerland. The diggers, naturally, were rewarded with the right to make use of the pool. Bradford had his goats graze around his little Swiss lake, which he ringed with statues of lions (these can also be seen ringing the vicarage in image 6 and the school in image 7, defiantly and protectively looking outward).[76]


4          ‘My Love Is Like All Lovely Things’: Bradford’s poetry

Particularly from his second collection onwards, Bradford wrote about his love for boys without an apparent care in the world as to what readers might make of this or what repercussions his outpourings might have.[77] His frankness and extensive output make him a nonpareil troubadour of Greek love; not a poet intent on modern experiment, but one steeped in the language of the King James Bible and reaching back to classic poetic forms, although often expressing himself simply.[78] He is a virtuoso wordsmith, a storyteller poet with – unsurprisingly for an organist – an excellent sense of rhythm and musicality. Occasionally he strays into melodrama, facile lines or jarring rhymes, and sometimes he moralises overtly or makes his point too expressly, exclamation marks and all. On the whole, however, one cannot help but admire his talent, courage and optimism.

One notion he articulates repeatedly is found more generally among Uranian writers: transient earthly beauty, exemplified by the short-lived splendour of boyhood, is an emblem of divinity and ideal perfection. This is expressed in terms of ‘The Child Divine’ (‘Methought I saw in visions of the night / The Child Divine, concealed in mortal guise’),[79] the ‘Boy Ideal’ (‘For though the boy may pass, the Boy Ideal / Will live for ever’)[80] and a generalised reverence for boyhood (‘Boyhood I worship rather than the boy; / And boyhood but as part of Nature’s whole’).[81] For Bradford, childhood is infused with purity and reflective of the divine; a state that is gradually lost as, growing up, we become mired in sin.[82]

There are recollections and vision-like evocations of seaside towns, likely informed in part by Bradford’s Torquay boyhood (the parental home faced the sea directly). Some poems are set in a coastal town called Belton, which for him is a type of utopia. The imagined seaside locale represents a homecoming and sometimes seems a prefigurement of the afterlife. People on earth are mere ‘strangers and pilgrims’ on their way to their true destination: ‘Though still I sojourn in this world awhile, / I wear a scallop shell’.[83] There is bucolic sentiment and the occasional nature poem. Here and there he turns to classical mythology, such as in the poems ‘To Narcissus’, ‘Jupiter and Ganymede’, ‘Hercules and Hylas’ and ‘Apollo and Hyacinthus’,[84] but he doesn’t go down this path as wholeheartedly as some of the other Uranian writers. Bradford’s Christian instincts stand like a rood screen between himself and the embrace of classical culture.[85] He generally prefers to present boy love through an English, Christian prism, often centred on his own time and relating to his own life (whether or not imagined), at other times taking inspiration from English history. Christianity, patriotism and perhaps as simple a factor as a preference for blond boys (the non angli sed angeli whom he actually saw around him) inform such lines as ‘Talk about the Greeks’ impeccability of form! / Give to me a Belton boy whose flesh and blood are warm!’[86] and ‘Is Boy-Love Greek? Far off across the seas / The warm desire of Southern men may be: / But passion freshened by a Northern breeze / Gains in male vigour and in purity. / Our yearning tenderness for boys like these / Has more in it of Christ than Socrates.’[87] The explicit linking of boy love and Christianity reminds one of the French artist Pierre Joubert (1910–2002), whose drawings depict the chivalrous, patriotic devotion of happy bands of Boy Scouts to duty, the Catholic faith and each other.

Image 8   Westminster Cathedral Non angli sed angeli
A mosaic in Westminster Cathedral, London, referencing Pope Gregory’s reputed exclamation on seeing English slave boys in Rome: ‘non angli sed angeli’ – ‘not Angles, but angels’. Bradford’s poems concur, being concerned mostly with the English boys around him.

There are the ballads, often moralising, which are like rhyming miniature adventure stories, calling to mind his prose yarns for the boys’ magazines. The ballad about Ivàn saving his friend Boris from a raving mad wolf with one blow of a heavy stone ends on the lesson: ‘But turn, with faith for freedom fight, fling be it but one stone: / Thus David put his foe to flight, thus God will rout our own!’[88] The importance of friendship is an enduring Bradfordian theme. The breeze of time-tested friendship is compared favourably with the storm of brief passion, and can even trump the enticements of boy love: ‘boy, as boy, is not so inly dear / As man, my fellow-worshipper and peer.’[89] His hymns to mature friendship (non-sexual, of course) show Bradford to have been far from an isolated Einzelgänger – even if his long incumbency in the rural parish of Nordelph conjures up images of isolation – and indicate just how highly he rated the support of intellectual compeers who understood what moved him.[90]

Whereas Bradford pays tribute to male friendship, women’s sexual allure (to other men) rankles with him, and in this he is not alone among the Uranians.[91] He argues that a certain class of woman is bound to entice to base lust men who would otherwise remain devoted to high love and healthy masculinity.[92] He calls for abolishing the procreative imperative, saying ‘single life is full as virtuous’ as founding a family.[93] The impression one gets is that in his eyes, initiation into the cult of the woman robs young men of their boyhood and thus of their unsullied nature.[94] It’s possible that a female rival robbed him of an intimate friendship at one point or other, or that he was disappointed more than once by a boy falling for the opposite sex. But Bradford’s beef with female sexuality goes deeper than any particular incident. At the risk of treading the quicksand of psychoanalysis, it could be posited that he resolves the conflict between his own sexuality and the predominant religious and social mores by creating in women a scapegoat that takes on whatever is sinful about desire. In fact, it is in religion that he finds justification for his antipathy: ‘The fruit by woman given—this alone, / It seems to me, can close the heavenly gate. / The lore that learns is still to me unknown, / I had no thirst for it to satiate. / So in these pleasant glades I linger late / With holy children, and with boys like me / Not free from sin yet from that one sin free.’[95] He accepts women’s struggle for equal rights – then in its first wave – on qualified terms, saying that while women previously appeared more pure and gentle than men, their quest to contend on ‘equal terms for equal prize’ has diminished their charms and virtues.[96] The tenor of his verses, argued one contemporary commentator, was not just to denounce the love of women but to do so ‘from a perfectly honest belief in their inferiority.’[97] She called for some feminist poet to provide the needed counterblast. The question is whether Bradford’s poetry was read widely enough to produce the hoped-for riposte; in addition, the age still allowed for attitudes such as his. Bradford himself was in time moved to write a poem titled ‘No Misogynist’,[98] which attempted to make his case by clarifying that his deprecation was directed not at women but at a certain type of man – ‘the complacent sensualist, / Woman’s slave and tool’.[99]

It is in the genre of the love lyric that Bradford delivers several of his best poems. ‘When I Went A-Walking’, which comes across as something a Provençal troubadour might have written, begins: ‘When I went a-walking / In the morning fair, / I met three boys a-running, / And one had golden hair: / Curly locks were they, / Like little rings of light. / I thought of him all day, / And I dreamed of him all night.’[100] This poem was chosen as the favourite among boy-love verses of various centuries read at a meeting of the Mattachine Society (the American homosexual rights organisation) at the start of the sixties, and was repeatedly called for at later poetry readings.[101] Bradford’s general good cheer stands out against the note of plaintiveness and melancholy often encountered in Uranian poetry.[102] In his purely lyrical moods, he expresses a sparkling joy: ‘What is my love like? Why, all lovely things! / I see them all in him. When he is gay / He’s—let me think—he’s like a lark that sings / Soaring aloft to heaven’,[103] or ‘His mother made his body, Heaven his soul: / And I? I did but teach his heart to beat! / And now his heart hath given me the whole, / And he is mine—all mine from head to feet: / All mine! And O my love, he is so sweet!’[104] A speciality of his is to mention the boy he is speaking of by name, which, along with his preference for ‘poetry of action’,[105] turns many of his poems into enthralling very short stories, a sort of rhymed flash fiction:


            My heart went out to Montague;
                        Did his respond to mine?
            His smile said “Yes;” his eyes did too.
                        But still I sought a sign.
            I sought a sign the whole day through,
                        But ’twas not till the night I knew.
                                    And how did I divine?
            By this—that when we bade adieu
            One moment more than others do
                        He left his hand in mine.
            ’Twas as we stood alone, we two,
            Beneath the stars with none to view,
            For a moment more than others do
                        He left his hand in mine.

The speaker in the poems is usually the admirer, friend or lover of a boy, but it’s not always clear that he’s (much) older than the beloved; Bradford’s poetic persona can seem to be an ageless boy himself. ‘First Love’, which uses a minimum of words to achieve maximum effect, is the touching plaint of a boy who finds the upheaval of being in love for the first time unwelcome: ‘Love now? Ah! no. / Love now to me might mean / Man’s cares too soon.’[107]

Over time, Bradford’s poetry became more visionary and utopian, as well as adopting a different format.[108] Some of the later books, including Ralph Rawdon: A Story in Verse (1920), are in a form that struck Eglinton as being ‘apparently original with him’,[109] although it has also been compared to George Crabbe’s narrative poetry:[110] short novels in verse, at times in Spenserian stanzas, divided into titled chapters or cantos and featuring novelistic character development.[111] They describe, for example, a Utopian community of boys residing as age-stratified pairs of friends under the guidance of a clergyman. The boys sport ringing names such as Norman de Vere, Leslie de Lampton and Master Merivale Trelawny Bates. In Strangers and Pilgrims (1929), the friendship between Alan Dave and Clinton Fane is eventually consecrated as a quasi marriage in a church ceremony. The True Aristocracy (1923) is modelled on Bradford’s own life at least in outline, describing the life of Edward Neville from his passionate childhood friendship with two boys, Clare and Clifford, to his graduation from Oxford, his ordination, his resolution to remain unmarried, his romance with a working-class youth called Dick and his plans to move abroad. The visionary confidence of Bradford’s call for an Edenic chivalry of knights and squires who spurn traditional marriage is expressed in lines such as ‘Go, little book, and cry: / Though few at first may heed thee, / Ten thousand by and by / Will gather round and read thee.’[112] (It is ironic to think how many traditional marriages the Reverend Bradford must have consecrated.) We thus see his poetry running the gamut from playful love lyrics to a wildly romantic programme for social revolution.[113]

Bradford can be different, and sometimes apparently contradictory, from poem to poem. One can select lines that portray him as appreciative of things carnal, lines that advocate idealised love and high-minded chivalry, or, indeed, lines that reject ‘lust’ and sanction only chaste, spiritual love. He is ambiguous about how he defines fleshly sins and improper lust. Verse such as ‘Free Love’, which ends on the triumphant cry ‘I’ve kissed young boys in dozens!’,[114] come across as the creed of a contrarian, even provocative hippie to whom the fallout of the Oscar Wilde trial (not yet twenty years in the past) was ancient history.[115] Then again, there are such declarations as: ‘This beauty of the boy, / By God and Nature’s plan, / Is not for carnal joy, / But to inspire in man // Bright dreams of purity’.[116]And where the poet avers ‘I never knew the carnal sting / That prompts to propagate the race’,[117] is he saying heterosexual sex is not for him, or sex as such is not for him?

While all this ambivalence suggests that Bradford was grappling with opposing instincts, there is no pained expression of inner conflict, of being torn between his sexuality on the one hand and his religion or society’s strictures on the other. Sometimes it seems a middle ground can be found. Bradford says explicitly, and often enough, that to smooch and snog with a loved one is to act on one’s natural disposition which, coming from God, is godly, but perhaps he pursues no consummation beyond that. It is in this sensuous niche that many a poem nests, such as a characteristically descriptive scene in which the speaker sits by the fire with his ‘child-lover’ on his lap and notices that ‘one adventurous foot to be more free / Has slipped its sheath, and now from heel to toe / Vibrates within the hollow of my knee.’[118]

Ross Denman Waldo. Portrait of Young Boy on the Beach. 1936
Young Boy on the Beach (1898) by Denman Waldo Ross. The seaside town in Bradford’s poetry is an idealised, dream-like location.

Sometimes physical pleasure and spiritual love are enmeshed rather ambiguously: ‘When Saints each other see / With chaste desire, / Hell will be verily / Less hot than heaven!’,[119] and ‘He that can see in Love impurity / In any form, or in the least degree— / Love, naked, shameless, wild—no saint is he, / But a low fool, or a cold-blooded sot.’[120] As regards the liberally used word ‘love’, an observation of Bradford’s may help clarify his take on that elusive concept: ‘The opposite to love is not hate—this is often only a disguised form of love—but blank indifference.’[121] Love to him, then, means difference: taking an interest, making a difference to each other.[122] With this condition in place, the passionate physical expression of love need not be shunned, but chasing physical satisfaction for its own sake is to be frowned upon. He seems to say as much where he specifies on the one hand that desire ‘is not more bad or good / Than thirst or hunger’ and that ‘Woman is not my foe, nor carnal bliss: / Woman was made by God; and clean desire / Is part of human nature’, while on the other hand he castigates ‘low lust’ and ‘low passion’ that overwhelm friendship, honour and love.[123] In his more abstentious moods, he shows himself to be averse to the complicated ways in which sexual desire is resolved on earth and pins his hopes on an afterlife where the whole business will be sorted: ‘I pondered on that perfect life where will / Be neither sex nor marriage, and where Love, / Having no carnal office to fulfil, / Will soar aloft’.[124]

Bradford’s poetry books were advertised in the papers, review copies were sent out and the books were widely reviewed, including in the most prominent papers and magazines such as The Times and The Athenæum. What did the critics have to say about his unusual subject matter? By and large, they declared themselves well-pleased by his verse, noting its solid craftsmanship and approving of its bracing, cheery tone. A verdict such as that of the Freeman’s Journal about In Quest of Love and Other Poems (1914) conveys the general sentiment: ‘This is a well-printed, neatly-bound, little volume of verses, in which the charms of boyhood and youth are extolled in picturesque and melodious lines. The youths of various climes engage the author’s attention. Besides the verses comprised in the poem giving a name to the collection there are other little verses expressive of phases of love and friendship, and all marked by liveliness, sympathy, a quick imagination, and a winning simplicity.’[125] It has been argued that the written expression of same-sex love was deemed unobjectionable when presented in a Christian context[126] or as being free from the carnal desire that contaminated male-female relations.[127] Bradford certainly knew how to clothe boy love in religiously tinged ideals of chivalry, comradeship and the rejection of female enticement.

A related explanation of the generally benevolent reception his verse enjoyed centres on the argument that passions society could not conceive of would have been naively understood as expressing a non-sexual type of affection, ‘a platonic love between man and boy, of a temporary and helpful nature – such as a scoutmaster might enjoy with his charges’.[128] The very concept of same-sex sexual attraction at the time was not, as it is now, an undisguised and ubiquitous cultural staple. Bradford’s time was therefore more capable of chaste interpretations of homoerotic lyricism. In addition, there was the ‘prevalence then of esteem for a classical education, which gave a certain air of scholarship and respect to aspects of homosexuality – so long as it was expressed in the rarefied world of poetry’.[129] This deference to classical learning is exemplified by a review which observed: ‘Each of the forty or more of the poems deals with the form of love the copyright of which is attributed, more or less correctly, to Plato. Nearly every poet worthy of the name has devoted at least one poem to this’.[130]

While much Uranian verse may thus have been interpreted as passionate but chaste ‘rhetoric of manliness and chivalric patriotism’,[131] as safely Platonic or as a nostalgic celebration of boyhood, it would stretch credulity to argue that a verse like ‘Free Love’, which helpfully distinguishes lovers of lads from lovers of women,[132] or many other of Bradford’s more mischievous or assertive disclosures, could have been understood as free from sexual desire, whether or not acted upon. An alternative speculation is that the ranks of literary critics, or even society more generally, harboured considerably more broad-mindedness than Bradford’s time is typically given credit for. But then, the modern image of his time as one of uniform prudery, repression and narrow-mindedness is fed in part by a drive to contrast it with our own time, which imagines itself to be compassionate, by and large enlightened and properly emancipated with regard to sexual matters. In fact, the extreme taboo on age-discrepant friendship and sex – whether homosexual or heterosexual – where one of the parties is below a given age of consent is a distinctly modern one that should not be assumed for Bradford’s time. The primary question therefore is how (if at all) his contemporaries reacted to the fact of his homosexuality, whereas the age discrepancy in his desire – its pederastic quality –is a secondary consideration at best.[133] If anything, pederasty was understood, justly, as the standard form of cultural expression of homosexuality down the ages.

Reviewers of Bradford’s day did sometimes let on that they were perfectly clear that his poetry’s raison d’être lay in his sexual attraction to boys.[134] But when an occasional expression of reservation turns up, it is mildly worded, as though unwilling to make a to-do. Take this extract from a review of The New Chivalry and Other Poems (1918): ‘to find a succession of poems to “Hilary,” “Frederick,” “Frank,” “Will,” and others is not common in English verse. We imagine the boys themselves, if they exist, looking rather red and sheepish. We think on the whole we prefer the ardent robust lustiness of the seventeenth century lyrists.’[135] Elsewhere, the same collection is described matter-of-factly as ‘a fresh setting forth, from the pen of the Rev. E. E. Bradford, of his creed of boy-love in preference to the love of women’; the article then signals the appearance of another writer’s collection of poems about children, which it says has an ‘infinitely more natural attitude towards young life’.[136] Yet another review of The New Chivalry seems to employ a different strategy by quoting only some anaemic lines unrelated to boy love.[137] This creates the impression that even if reviewers were sometimes embarrassed, they had no stomach for taking on a subject so perplexing to them and preferred to gloss over it rather than taking public issue with it. Commentators who privately disliked a saucy poem could shake their head, move on to a poem expressing a chaster sentiment, then nod and prefer to keep the latter in mind when writing their review. One can even imagine the author and his reviewers together keeping up a dance of strategic ambiguity.[138] And those pundits who shared or sympathised with Bradford’s Uranian outlook could nod knowingly about both types of poem and help the cause along with an appreciative review.[139]


5          Sharing a pew on Parnassus: Bradford among his fellow poets

A window on the 75-year-old Bradford’s life and thought is provided by the aforementioned visit by John Betjeman, the later Poet Laureate, then a young man of 29. Bradford united a range of qualities that attracted Betjeman’s interest: he was a lesser-known poet, a boy lover (Betjeman was himself bisexual and wrote several sympathetic poems about boy lovers[140]), a churchman (Betjeman was fond of church architecture and ritual) and, last but not least, an eccentric. Betjeman spent the afternoon and evening of Sunday 8 December 1935 with Bradford at Nordelph and wrote about the day in his private journal.[141] A fire was going in the vicarage, which had pictures everywhere, including reproductions of paintings by Henry Scott Tuke (the Falmouth painter of bathing boys) and one of The Princes in the Tower by John Everett Millais (‘the luckless twain / King Edward and young York, as wan almost / As their white roses, sought and sought in vain / A single faithful friend’[142]). One can imagine Bradford sitting in his study on a typical day, the sanctified silence of the large house only enhanced by the crackling fire in the hearth and the angry Fenland wind at the windows, poring over his verse singing the divine beauty of boys as the housemaid clears the tea things.

Tuke Henry Scott Tuke. Our Jack
Our Jack (1886) by Henry Scott Tuke, depicting Tuke’s friend Jack Rolling. Bradford hung his vicarage with reproductions of Tuke’s paintings and wrote a poem, “Our Jack”, about a dependable fisherboy. The quotation marks are Bradford’s and suggest a reference to Tuke’s painting.

Not that the atmosphere in the vicarage would typically have been forbidding and the silence stony: Betjeman describes Bradford as a ‘saintly and sweet little man’ with a high voice, like Cottam’s, who talked a lot and very fast. He looked frail and moved around in a quiet, hurried fashion. Betjeman thought he had an obvious cataract coming on. Either during the visit or some time before, Bradford knocked over the fire screen and broke it, but – as Betjeman later wrote in his journal – he refused to admit he was ‘failing’. He still walked everywhere and claimed to walk sixteen miles on some days. Only two years before, he’d run three miles when late for a funeral. Having no car himself, he was thrilled at the sight of a car. He kept press cuttings and articles, all ‘very neatly docketed’.[143] Betjeman attended the church service: the red altar was draped with black cloths, and all candles were lighted. Bradford played the organ very well while a handsome little fellow pumped the instrument, and he preached an abstruse and clever sermon on the certainty of God. He explained to Betjeman that he gave children a penny for attending church, keeping the pennies for this purpose in little boxes in his desk drawer. (A penny used to buy you a copy of The Boy’s Own Paper, but the price had gone up to a shilling by the 1930s.)[144]

Whereas earlier in life Bradford had been an Anglo-Catholic, no doubt inclined that way as a result of his Oxford education, he had since moved towards Modernism, although he continued to appreciate ritual.[145]According to Betjeman, Bradford’s friendship with Cottam cooled because the latter remained Anglo-Catholic.[146] Modernism, or Liberal Christianity, was social-justice-oriented, admitted modern biblical criticism and accepted Darwinian evolution.[147] While his views on women were decidedly retrograde and his feelings about other cultures, nationalities and ethnicities were a mixed bag,[148] he also had a social-justice streak, opposing drinking, gambling, cruelty to animals, classism, the exploitation of labourers and, of course, the laws forbidding sex between males.[149] With regard to the issue of social class, the poem ‘Medieval Oxford’ defends his university’s record: ‘And to this day, I’m proud to say, my dear old alma mater / Cares little if you’re rich or poor, or who may be your pater!’[150] In The True Aristocracy (1923) he proclaims: ‘In future aristocracy / Will not depend on pedigree; / Wealth will not win gentility, / Nor title-deeds nobility.’[151] For this collection Bradford may have been inspired by William Paine’s A New Aristocracy of Comradeship (1920), which expounds on friendship – the code word at that time for not just friendship but also love and sexual relationships – between men and working boys.[152] Adult labourers also aroused Bradford’s pity, and he can suddenly sound political: ‘See that this British soil be wholly freed / From landlord’s lust of gold and farmer’s greed, / And given to men!’[153]

Bradford told Betjeman that his last boyfriend was called ‘Edmund [?Edward] Monson’ (this is how Betjeman later wrote it down in his journal), but that he had not had a boyfriend for thirty years.[154] He thought the laws against sexuality wicked, cruel and out of date. He declared himself in favour of birth control and said that logically, onanism was a must and should be permitted in public schools. He’d read Freud, but didn’t believe him. The other day he’d had a dream: a big boy asked him to go to a house in Torquay, his town of origin. He knew he was to go there for a bad purpose. He saw the house and experienced nothing, but felt as though he was a boy of eight again. He told Betjeman the Queen had once asked him for an autograph of one of his books, and reflected: “I wonder why she wanted it. Perhaps for the Prince of Wales. I have often thought he may be a Platonist.”[155] The story about the Queen’s request prompted Betjeman to jot down in his journal: ‘Obviously a joke played on him poor old thing.’

This little comment by Betjeman is emblematic of a wider circumstance Bradford was presumably unaware of: the subject matter of his verse, combined with the melodramatic quality of some of it, was a source of great mirth to Betjeman and his friends, including the poet W. H. Auden and the archaeologist Stuart Piggott.[156] Betjeman was irresistibly drawn to the camp and risqué quality of Bradford’s outspoken boy-love poetry,[157] knew several of his poems by heart (as did Piggott) and expressed the hope that more readers would discover him. Betjeman and Auden were fascinated by Cottam for similar reasons, and the two went to hear Cottam celebrate sung mass in his parish of Wootton, Berkshire.[158] To more than a few people, whether or not put on their trail by Betjeman, these two clergymen’s spirited defence of something so outlandish must have made them seem zany and quixotic.[159] Indeed, Bradford was – and is – not quite taken seriously by all: the novelist Dorothy L. Sayers, whose father was the rector of the parish of Christchurch, Cambridgeshire near Nordelph, called him ‘an entertaining little crank—and rather a dear’.[160] When some modern critics dismiss Bradford and Cottam – or the Uranians in general – after discussing them cursorily, it can be hard to decide where the critique of their literary qualities ends and where the disgust at their sexuality begins. Just like black Africans were not supposed to have been capable of building as majestic a city as Great Zimbabwe, it seems some writers must be deemed inconsequential by virtue of their sexual orientation.[161]

But Betjeman, while amused at Bradford’s expense, also had a genuine appreciation for at least some of his work. This stands to reason, given that the tight, musical composition of Bradford’s verse is akin to his own style. Any notion that Betjeman only chummed up with Bradford the better to gloat over the eccentric pervert’s preposterous poetry would bespeak a poor understanding of both men and their work. Lamenting that Bradford’s poems never got into anthologies,[162] Betjeman included ‘Paddy Maloy’ in his selection for The Saturday Book annual miscellany of 1965.[163]

             Paddy Maloy

O Paddy Maloy is a broth of a boy,
     As pretty as pretty can be;
He tosses his curls in disdain at the girls,
     For not one is so pretty as he.

Though he’s seven years old, he’s a bachelor bold,
     As for marrying, simply he
His papa’s in despair, for you see he’s the heir,
     And the line will run out if he don’t.

If a lady but touch him, his anger is such
     That he flushes as red as a rose;
But if he is kissed, in a moment his fist
     Goes simply straight bang at her nose!

What to do with a boy like young Paddy Maloy
     Is a problem to puzzle a sage;
I’m thinking,
ochone! we must leave him alone,
     For it’s too late to change at his age.

A reference to Bradford made its way into a poem by Betjeman, or at least a footnote to it: ‘A Shropshire Lad’ – the title a wink to A. E. Housman’s famous collection, but the poem itself a characteristically accomplished tribute to the drowned Shropshire stunt swimmer Matthew Webb – opens with the line ‘The gas was on in the Institute’. The footnote clarifies that this was inspired by a line in Bradford’s novel in verse Boyhood (1930): ‘The Institute was radiant with gas.’ As the opening line of Betjeman’s poem is a droll one and hardly material to the subject of the poem, the arcane reference to Bradford appears intended as a mild dig. Auden gave Bradford and Cottam a cameo appearance in his long poem ‘Letter to Lord Byron’. The poem expresses regret that light verse has gone out of fashion and goes on to say: ‘Parnassus after all is not a mountain, / Reserved for A.I. climbers such as you; / It’s got a park, it’s got a public fountain. / The most I ask is leave to share a pew / With Bradford or with Cottam, that will do’.[164] ‘Light verse’ is not the first genre that comes to mind when thinking of Bradford’s and Cottam’s poetry (they don’t set out to make their point through humour, though Bradford is often witty enough and his poems have the jollity of songs).[165] Auden, then, seems to be classing them as minor poets irrespective of their poetic style.[166]

Betjeman John 16
The poet John Betjeman, here shown top centre at Marlborough College aged about 16, sought to popularise Bradford’s poetry.

Betjeman was not the only person to travel to Nordelph to experience Bradford for himself. Timothy d’Arch Smith, biographer and bibliographer of the Uranians, tells an anecdote about an unnamed lifelong Bradford fan who, like Betjeman, had been alerted to the poet in his university days. As an undergraduate, this fan once bicycled over from Cambridge to Nordelph, where he was given a tour of the church. At the end of an agreeable visit, Bradford expressed the hope that the young man would come again and bring along a pal. The young man duly visited again later in the term with a college friend. Bradford, when he found an opportunity, remarked discreetly to his second-time visitor: “I like your pal, but I was expecting him to be a… rather younger fellow.”[167]

When Betjeman visited Bradford, it had been five years since the publication of Bradford’s last book, Boyhood. d’Arch Smith heard it said much later that the writer Beverley Nichols had attacked this book in a review for being indecent; d’Arch Smith was unable to trace such a review. The denunciation allegedly upset Bradford to such a degree that he never published another word.[168] One can speculate about other reasons that may have underlain the lack of literary output in the last fifteen years of his life: perhaps he’d said all he wanted to say, he’d grown less ardent with advancing age, writing was becoming more difficult (Betjeman, after all, said his eyesight was deteriorating) or the sales of his books had declined. As he commented in a letter to the writer Leonard Henry Green: ‘Only about one man in a hundred is interested in my subject.’[169] But this would hardly explain why eleven previous collections had apparently not suffered from a discouraging lack of interest, or not enough to cause him to hang his harp upon the willows. In the same letter, incidentally, Bradford gave voice to his characteristic optimism: ‘I find many Bishops and dignitaries are not quite so narrow as one may think.’

Several of Bradford’s friends and acquaintances moved in Uranian literary and activist circles, such as Edward Carpenter (whose work expressed his ideas about ‘spiritual democracy’ – love as the shatterer of class divisions – under the influence of Walt Whitman), George Cecil Ives (founder of the secret homosexual society, the Order of Chaeronea), John Leslie Barford (who wrote poetry under the pseudonym Philebus), Leonard Henry Green (who in turn was a close friend of T. E. Lawrence – yes, of Arabia) and Horatio Robert Forbes Brown (the historian of Venice and biographer of John Addington Symonds).[170] On the other hand, the little-known poetess Octavia Gregory from Parkstone, Dorset, who dedicated her volume Dreams of Arcady (1913) to Bradford, is unlikely to have had the least connection with things Uranian.[171] A glimpse of Bradford’s connection with the Uranian world is afforded by his contribution of a poem, ‘Friendship and Love’, to The Quorum. A Magazine of Friendship. Launched in 1920, this magazine of Greek love was, like its much earlier predecessor The Chameleon, fated to fold after the appearance of a single issue. It was circulated as a specimen copy to the members of the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology and had probably been produced by members of that same society and/or of the Order of Chaeronea.[172] d’Arch Smith in fact credits Bradford as one of the founders of The Quorum.[173] The magazine seems to have been discontinued at the insistence of George Cecil Ives, who favoured secrecy and feared negative publicity.[174] Outside of Uranian circles, Bradford proved himself a joiner by becoming vice-president of the Institute of British Poetry, founded in 1916.[175]

In view of his extensive travels, his curacies near London as well as a poem such as ‘Piccadilly’ (Piccadilly Circus was well-known as a spot where one could loiter and meet boys),[176] it is likely that Bradford found himself in the capital more than a few times and had opportunity there to socialise with other Uranians. If he was as talkative on paper as he was in person, he must also have sent out a fair amount of letters. He must be counted among the later Uranians, not with regard to his year of birth but with regard to the fact that most of his poetry books appeared in the 1910s and 1920s. d’Arch Smith identifies an upsurge of Uranian writings between 1858, when the collection of verse Ionica by William Johnson – later William Johnson Cory – came out, and 1930, the year of publication of the only poetry collection by Cottam to appear in his lifetime as well as of Bradford’s final offering.[177]

Bradford. John Everett Millais   The Princes in the Tower
The Princes in the Tower (1878) by John Everett Millais, a reproduction of which hung in Bradford’s Nordelph vicarage

In the year of Betjeman’s visit to Nordelph, 1935, Bradford’s sister Ada Bessie died and administration was granted to him; two years later his sister Rosa Kate died and probate was granted to him. He had evidently been on good terms with at least these two family members. Curiously, they as well as their sister Ella Maria were all lifelong spinsters. Ada Bessie lived with her brother George Frank, a schoolmaster who never married, either. Of the seven Bradford siblings who reached adulthood, the only two to marry were Amelia Hembrew (Minnie) and Louis Henry, who like Edwin was a clergyman.[178] The 1939 England and Wales Register shows Bradford living with his 60-year-old housekeeper Sarah Esther Beales. The outbreak of World War II must have been a terrible disappointment to Bradford, who had shared in the idealism of the founding of the League of Nations after the Great War. In 1940, with the wartime blackout in force, he was fined nine shillings – and twenty shillings and sixpence in costs – for having allowed light to shine from the vicarage.[179]

He continued to conduct services right up to the time of his death.[180] On 7 February 1944, the 83-year-old poet died at the vicarage, the last surviving Bradford sibling. Cottam had preceded him in death by just under a year. Bradford was buried at Nordelph[181] and left his property, including personal copies of his poetry books, to his last housekeeper, Sarah.[182],[183] The battered vicarage was demolished not long after his death, Bradford’s attempt to recreate a Swiss lake next to it apparently having been the final nail in the building’s coffin.[184] The church held out a good deal longer, but was cracked and unstable by the end of the century and was torn down in 2010 (that excellent stained-glass window was preserved).[185] Where once Edwin Emmanuel Bradford wrote his Uranian love lyrics and visions and rewarded Nordelph’s children with pennies for coming to listen to the Holy Word, a housing development has since gone up known as Church Cottages. Coinciding with Bradford’s death was the waning of the Uranian ideal, which was displaced and strategically demonised – what are thirty pieces of silver in the grand scheme of things – by a new, egalitarian, androphile gay rights movement that used the heterosexual marriage for a model: ‘paiderastic discourse […] would never again be invoked by homosexual men in so organised a manner, and with such bravado.’[186]

Bradford’s poetry encountered an appreciative, but probably very small reading public in his lifetime.[187] He has since been discussed or anthologised occasionally, two of the most notable early treatments being Eglinton’s in 1964 and d’Arch Smith’s in 1970. A selection from his work was published in 1988 (To Boys Unknown), and he was featured in Kaylor’s two-volume Uranian anthology of 2010 which built on d’Arch Smith’s research. His books were never reprinted; they are not cheap in the antiquarian market. Bradford’s subject matter, his unique voice and his place among the Uranians will ensure that he continues to come to the attention of academics and select, happy readers. In 2021 his alma mater, Exeter College, acquired the author’s copies of his books. These contain his abundant handwritten comments and corrections, including copied reviews and feedback from admirers and critics. Some of the poet’s notes are in a private code, and it is an open question whether the art of cryptography can one day unlock the secrets contained in it.[188],[189]

6          Bibliography

6.1 Bradford’s writings

6.1.i Uncollected stories (an incomplete list)

  • ‘Boris Orloff’, in The Boy’s Own Paper XV, nos. 764-5, 2 & 9 September 1893. Reprinted as Boris Orloff: A Christmas Yarn, Stoke Ferry: Daedalus Press, 1968, limited edition by Timothy d’Arch Smith of 220 copies plus 10 copies on Japanese paper lettered A to J.
  • ‘A Boy Isvoschik’, in the 1895 Chatterbox annual.
  • ‘Don Quixote’s Last Combat’, in The Boy’s Own Paper XVII, no. 838, 2 February 1895.
  • ‘How We Rescued a Slave at Tanjier’, in The Boy’s Own Paper XVIII, no. 893, 22 February 1896.
  • ‘Our Trip to Mycenæ’, in The Boy’s Own Paper XVIII, nos. 921-4, 5, 12, 19 & 26 September 1896.
  • ‘My Friend Ismyrlian’, in The Boy’s Own Paper XIX, no. 958, 22 May 1897.
  • ‘My Rival Basil: An Adventure with the Kabyles’, in The Boy’s Own Paper, summer number for 1898.
  • ‘The Land of the Tsars: A Holiday Adventure’, in The Boy’s Own Paper XXI, no. 1042, 31 December 1898.
  • ‘An Independent Gentleman’, in the 1899 Chatterbox Christmas-box annual, reprinted in the 1908 Chatterbox annual.
  • ‘Heroes and Chimæras. A Story of Modern Greece’, in the 1899 Chatterbox Christmas-box annual.
  • ‘How We Turned Bedouin Robbers’, in The Boy’s Own Paper XXII, no. 1099, 3 February 1900, reprinted in The Montreal Weekly Witness, 16 December 1902.
  • ‘The Biter Bit’, in The Boy’s Own Paper (Christmas number), 1900.
  • ‘Bear Hunting In Russia and Out of It’, in the 1900 Chatterbox Christmas-box annual, reprinted in the County Observer and Monmouthshire Central Advertiser, 29 December 1900, p. 3.
  • ‘How We Winged a Thessaly Gaol-bird’, in The Boy’s Own Paper XXIII, no. 1183, 14 September 1901.
  • ‘Yannos and Yankos’, in Goodwill, 1902.
  • ‘A Dog with a Bad Name’, in The Boy’s Own Paper XXIV, no. 1210, 22 March 1902.
  • ‘In Fanatic Tangier’, in The Boy’s Own Paper, 1902/1903.
  • ‘Our Treasure-hunt at Sakkara’, in The Boy’s Own Paper XXVI, no. 1322, 14 May 1904.
  • ‘How to Cure a Fit of the Blues’, in Young Men, August 1908.

6.1.ii Book publications

  • Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year: Being Fifty-seven Outline Sermons on Texts Taken from the Sunday Epistles Or Gospels, Together with Addresses for Christmas Day and Good Friday, London: Skeffington & Son, 1907
  • Stories of Life at Our Great Public Schools, London: Arthur H. Stockwell, 1908
  • Sonnets Songs & Ballads, London: Kegan Paul, 1908
  • Passing the Love of Women and Other Poems, London: Kegan Paul, 1913
  • In Quest of Love and Other Poems, London: Kegan Paul, 1914
  • Lays of Love and Life, London: Kegan Paul, 1916
  • The New Chivalry and Other Poems, London: Kegan Paul, 1918
  • The Romance of Youth and Other Poems, London: Kegan Paul, 1920
  • Ralph Rawdon: a Story in Verse, London: Kegan Paul, 1922
  • The True Aristocracy, London: Kegan Paul, 1923
  • The Tree of Knowledge, London: Kegan Paul, 1925
  • The Kingdom Within You and Other Poems, London: Kegan Paul, 1927
  • Strangers and Pilgrims, London: Kegan Paul, 1929
  • Boyhood, London: Kegan Paul, 1930
  • To Boys Unknown. Poems by Rev. E. E. Bradford, London: GMP Publishers Ltd, introduced and selected by Paul Webb, 1988

6.2      On Bradford (a selection)

  • Aldrich, Robert and Garry Wotherspoon (eds.) (2001), Who’s Who in Gay & Lesbian History, Oxon: Routledge. A brief article expressing surprise at the favourable reception of Bradford’s ‘uncomplicated celebration of male love’.
  • Anderson, Patrick and Alistair Sutherland (eds.) (1961), Eros: An Anthology of Friendship, London: Anthony Blond. A brief discussion of Bradford’s poetry, citing examples from The Kingdom Within You and Other Poems, Strangers and Pilgrims and Boyhood.
  • d’Arch Smith, Timothy (1970), Love in Earnest: Some Notes on the Lives and Writings of English ‘Uranian’ Poets from 1889 to 1930. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Discusses Bradford in the context of his fellow Uranian writers.
  • d’Arch Smith, Timothy, ed. (2001), The Quorum. A Magazine of Friendship. A facsimile edition with an Introduction by Timothy d'Arch Smith, Asphodel Editions. Discusses Bradford in the context of his involvement with The Quorum.
  • d’Arch Smith, Timothy (2017), ‘The Poetry of E. E. Bradford: The Author’s Own Copies’, The Book Collector 66, no. 2.
  • Eglinton, J. Z. [Walter H. Breen] (1964), Greek Love, New York: Oliver Layton Press. Discusses Bradford’s poetry.
  • Kaylor, Michael Matthew, ed. (2010), Lad’s Love: An anthology of Uranian poetry and prose. Volume I: John Leslie Barford to Edward Cracroft Lefroy, Kansas City: Valancourt Books. Includes fifteen poems by Bradford, with some biographical and bibliographical information.
  • Knott, Simon (2005), ‘Holy Trinity, Nordelph’, at http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/nordelph/nordelph.htm (accessed December 2022).
  • Norton, Rictor (1974, 1998), ‘Blessed Are the Puer in Heart: E. E. Bradford’, on the website Gay History & Literature: Essays by Rictor Norton, at http://rictornorton.co.uk/bradford.htm (accessed December 2022). A gleeful review of Bradford’s poetry, emphasising their ‘leaping, rollicking freedom’.
  • Quince, Travers Hartington (1919), Bats, Boots, and Bathing Togs. Includes his Cornish translations of a few of Bradford’s poems.
  • Slocum, Edward Mark (1924), Men and Boys: An Anthology, New York. Republished 1978, New York-London: The Coltsfoot Press. Rare; includes Bradford’s poems ‘Shy Love’, ‘When I went A-Walking’ and ‘Alan’.
  • Van-Asten, Barry (15 June 2019), ‘Desire and Divinity: A Brief Biographical Sketch of Reverend Edwin Emmanuel Bradford (1860-1944)’, Ghost Blooms blog, at https://ghostblooms-van-asten.blogspot.com/2019/06/edwin-emmanuel-bradford.html (accessed December 2022). Includes some family background.
  • Waters, Sarah Ann (1995), Wolfskins and Togas: Lesbian and Gay Historical Fictions, 1870 to the Present, London: Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London (Ph.D. thesis). Discusses Bradford’s use of ‘paiderastic paradigms’ inferred from the Bible as well as the classics.
  • Webb, Paul (ed.) (1988), To Boys Unknown. Poems by Rev. E. E. Bradford, London: GMP Publishers Ltd. Forty-five poems introduced and selected by Paul Webb. The five-page introduction discusses Bradford’s cheery, ‘brazenly gay’ verse and possible reasons for its acceptance by the critics of his day. ‘Let us hope that Dr Bradford, even as we read, is taking tea with the angels.’
  • Webb, P. (27 February 1988), ‘Not one is as pretty as he’, The Spectator, London, pp. 14–16.


[1] All rights reserved. No part of this article, which is licensed exclusively to Greek Love Through the Ages (https://greek-love.com), may be used without the author’s permission.

[2] Maria was baptised in Hawkchurch, Dorset on 5 July 1818, the daughter of George Wellman (1778–1861) and Sarah Stanton (d. 1840s). Her brother James would become a watchmaker and jeweller, professions also prominent in the Bradford family.

[3] Edwin Greenslade was baptised in Wolborough on 27 February 1818, the son of James Bradford (1782–1860) and Betty Bowbeer (1788–1832). Edwin’s middle name Greenslade was his maternal grandmother’s family name.

[4] 1851 and 1861 censuses. The children were: Ella Maria (1845–1930), Amelia Hembrew (Minnie) (1846–1918), Edwin Reginald (1848–1857), Louis Henry (1849–1920), George Frank (1851–1929), Ada Bessie (1854–1935), Rosa Kate (1856–1937) and Edwin Emmanuel (1860–1944).

[5] ‘Charge of larceny’, Western Times, Wednesday 21 March 1855, p. 11.

[6] Birth record, General Register Office. The family had moved from 8 Strand to 9 Strand. The poem ‘August. (To a Friend.)’ begins: ‘I love this month in which we both were born’ – in The Romance of Truth and Other Poems (1920). The friend may be Samuel Elsworth Cottam, on whom more below, who was also born in August.

[7] Edwin Emmanuel must have been keenly aware of his middle name’s significance; he was to write about the Bible text ‘Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us’ (Matthew 1:23) in Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year (1907), pp. 36-40.

[8] Edwin Emmanuel having gone to Castle is recorded in Joseph Foster (1893), Oxford Men and Their Colleges, Oxford & London: James Parker & Co. Foster refers to Bradford’s father as ‘Edward Greendale [sic], gent.’, and other records qualify both Edwin Sr’s brothers and Edwin Jr’s brothers as such. Variously defined, the qualification ‘gentleman’ originally referred to the lowest rank of the landed gentry and, in a broad sense, indicated that one was able to live on one’s private means.

[9] The poem opens out the collection In Quest of Love and Other Poems (1914); Bradford’s visit to Switzerland was mentioned by Nordelph resident Chris Manning to Simon Knott, who has written about Bradford at http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/nordelph/nordelph.htm (accessed December 2022).

[10] Sonnets Songs & Ballads (1908), pp. 125-6.

[11] For Bradford, as his poetry makes clear, boyhood had a special quality of purity and divinity; it was not just an age range, but a state to which to aspire all one’s life. Hence, his experience with Jack was his initiation into this state.

[12] Death record, General Register Office. She died at home, 9 Strand, aged 48.

[13] ‘Humour and Pathos’, in In Quest of Love and Other Poems (1914), p. 72.

[14] James Bradford was admitted to Plympton House in Plymouth on 7 September 1860 – his grandson Edwin Emmanuel was two weeks old – and died there a mere ten days later. (The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Commissioners in Lunacy, 1845–1913. Lunacy Patients Admission Registers.)

[15] ‘Suicide of a Torquay Tradesman’, Torquay Times and South Devon Advertiser, 23 May 1874, p. 5 – a detailed report on the suicide of Edwin Greenslade Bradford and the circumstances leading up to it.

[16] Oxford University Gazette, Vol. 12, 1882, p. 62.

[17] Wayne R. Dynes (ed.) (1990), The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, New York: Garland, pp. 187-8.

[18] In the summer term of 1884, some Oxford undergraduates and graduates were expelled for intimate involvement with boys of the college choirs. One of the implicated undergraduates, 21-year-old Robert Shelton Bate, had matriculated at Exeter in the same year as Bradford and Cottam. The incident shows both that Greek ideals were being put into practice and that this did not meet with limitless tolerance. From a contemporary handwritten note in a copy of Boy-Worship, a 14-page tract published in Oxford in 1880. On these expulsions, see https://www.greek-love.com/index.php/modern-europe/great-britain/not-schools-1800-99/notes-on-hutchinson-s-boy-worship

[19] Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon, eds. (2001), Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History: From Antiquity to World War II, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 325, 486.

[20] Michael Yelton (2009), Outposts of the Faith: Anglo-Catholicism in Some Rural Parishes, Norwich: Canterbury Press, p. 202. Anglo-Catholicism emphasises the Catholic heritage of the Anglican Communion.

[21] Sonnets Songs & Ballads (1908), pp. 28-9.

[22] As he explained in a letter to the writer Leonard Henry Green: ‘all our conceptions of Him come through His works. The beauty of Nature suggests what He is like […] and the beauty of His children gives us an idea of His beauty.’ (Timothy d’Arch Smith (1970), Love in Earnest: Some Notes on the Lives and Writings of English ‘Uranian’ Poets from 1889 to 1930, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, p. 139.) In his Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year (1907), Bradford writes: ‘All who are fighting for anything right against anything wrong are on the side of the God of truth and beauty and order’ (pp. 59-60).

[23] Foster (1893).

[24] ‘Ordination by the Bishop of St. Albans’, The Herts Advertiser and St. Albans Times, 27 December 1884, p. 5.

[25] ‘Ordinations’, Morning Post, 22 December 1885, p. 2.

[26] ‘Ongar Cricket Club’, Chelmsford Chronicle, 21 May 1886, p. 6. At the club’s annual concert, Mrs. Cunnah and the Rev. E. E. Bradford played a well-received violin and piano duet (the movement ‘Allegro Piacevole’ from Beethoven’s Sonata in A Major, opus 12).

[27] ‘Licences to Curacies’, Manchester Courier, 13 January 1887, p. 3.

[28] Foster (1893).

[29] Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Saint Petersburg.

[30] Saint Petersburg lies on the Gulf of Finland.

[31] Did he perhaps contribute to these magazines from abroad in order to foster a sense of connection with his home country, or because he thought that as a traveller he was well-placed to entertain and edify young readers with stories of travel and adventure?

[32] The Clergy List, with which is Incorporated the Clerical Guide and Ecclesiastical Directory (1897), London: Kelly and Co., Limited. Rue Auguste Vacquerie was called rue des Bassins until 1895.

[33] ‘Funeral of Sir Richard Wallace’, The Globe, 24 July 1890, p. 3.

[34] d’Arch Smith (1970), p. 154.

[35] Michael Matthew Kaylor (ed.) (2010), Lad’s Love: An anthology of Uranian poetry and prose. Volume I: John Leslie Barford to Edward Cracroft Lefroy, Kansas City: Valancourt Books, p. 214.

[36] Bevis Hillier (2002), John Betjeman: New Fame, New Love, London: John Murray, p. 62.

[37] ‘[H]urried work often has to be done all over again […] if you want to learn a language quickly it is madness to hurry over the elementary grammar rules’ – Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year (1907), p. 264.

[38] Ibid., p. 243.

[39] Aldrich and Wotherspoon (2001), p. 67. Cf. Bradford’s Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year (1907), p. 218: ‘During twelve years that I spent on the continent, one of the most common charges which I heard brought against my fellow-countrymen was that they were inclined to be pharisaical.’

[40] Where the historian of Greek love J. Z. Eglinton implies that Bradford not just visited but served as chaplain in other countries on the Continent besides Russia and France, he evidently misinterpreted his source, although just conceivably Bradford was on church business in some of the other countries he visited. ‘[Bradford] was for some years chaplain to English congregations in various countries on the Continent, thereafter assistant priest at St. George’s (the Anglo-Catholic church in Paris)’ – J. Z. Eglinton (1964), Greek Love, New York: Oliver Layton Press, p. 397. The wording is changed slightly from his source, Men and Boys: An Anthology (New York, 1924), where it says: ‘For a number of years he was a chaplain to English congregations in various countries on the Continent. At one time he was Assistant Priest at the Anglo-Catholic Church in Paris, St. George’s’ (p. 48).

[41] I.e., most people who seem defiantly carefree have a hidden pain.

[42] This boy bather impressed Bradford not a little. He dedicated a separate sonnet to him, ‘The Bather in the Blue Grotto at Capri’, included in The New Chivalry and Other Poems (1918). The sonnet is also in Paul Webb (introduction and selection), To Boys Unknown. Poems by Rev. E. E. Bradford (1988) and in Lad’s Love: An anthology of Uranian poetry and prose (2010).

[43] Given the need for discretion, ‘fan flirtation’ was a popular means of conveying coded messages through specific movements of the hand fan. Whether Bradford was capable of deciphering Spanish fan code is anyone’s guess.

[44] Gide’s autobiography Si le grain ne meurt (If it Die…) was not published until the 1920s; Bradford’s In Quest of Love and Other Poems appeared in 1914.

[45] Bradford also mentions the Outer Bridge in his 1902 story ‘A Dog with a Bad Name’. In a discussion of Ramadan in Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year (1907), he notes that this period of fasting ‘is very hard on the poor kaikjis, or boatmen, at Constantinople, for they are exposed all day to the burning sun, and they work as usual’ (p. 92). This aside reinforces the impression that what he writes about Turkey is based on personal observation and experience. Compare also this impressive sentence from the same work: ‘Pale, half-starved little creatures in East London courts and alleys; scrofulous, anæmic little beings shut up all the winter in the enervating vitiated air of underground basements of houses in St. Petersburg; ragged, half-starved children who live among the dogs in the slums of Constantinople; naked, ill-fed, uncared for young Arabs in Egypt—yes, all the children I have ever known, have that mysterious hidden fountain of joy always ready to swell up and overflow’ (p. 236).

[46] ‘Country and Town’, in Sonnets Songs & Ballads (p. 16).

[47] ‘The Romance of Youth’, in The Romance of Youth and Other Poems (1920), p. 3.

[48] Yelton (2009), p. 202.

[49] Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, 16 December 1899, p. 2.

[50] Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette, 14 March 1902, p. 7. The article refers to Bradford as ‘superintendent of the Oxford Wesleyan Circuit’, confusing him with a William Bradfield who actually held that post.

[51] ‘Conferment of Degrees’, Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette, 21 June 1901, p. 11.

[52] Ibid., 24 June 1904, p. 7.

[53] ‘Services in Windsor and Eton. Sunday Next, March 20th, 1904’, Windsor and Eton Express, 19 March 1904, p. 8.

[54] Aldrich and Wotherspoon (2001), pp. 67-8.

[55] Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year (1907), p. 15. Bradford’s ideal of a New Chivalry – also expressed in his collection The New Chivalry (1918) – harkens back to Charles Kains Jackson’s essay ‘The New Chivalry’, published in Jackson’s Uranian periodical The Artist and Journal of Home Culture in 1894. (d’Arch Smith (1970), pp. 87 & 124.)

[56] Ibid., p. 29.

[57] Ibid., p. 39.

[58] Ibid., p. 129.

[59] That said, in Strangers and Pilgrims (1929) the friendship between Alan Dave and Clinton Fane, two youths who plan religious careers, is eventually sealed by a church ceremony.

[60] The phrase used by Eglinton (1964) in contrasting Sonnets Songs & Ballads with the later poetry (p. 397).

[61] ‘Preferments in Norwich Diocese’, East Anglian Daily Times, 1 December 1905, p. 4.

[62] Arthur H. Stockwell was to publish Cottam’s Cameos of Boyhood and Other Poems in 1930.

[63] Benjamin Watson (1992), English Schoolboy Stories: An Annotated Bibliography of Hardcover Fiction, Metuchen, N.J. and London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., pp. 23-4.

[64] David Alderson (1998), Mansex Fine. Religion, Manliness and Imperialism in Nineteenth-Century British Culture, Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, pp. 66-7.

[65] Originating in mid-19th-century England, Muscular Christianity was a movement that sought to align Christianity with physical culture, masculinity, patriotism and self-sacrifice. Its focus on the male, with opportunities for male bonding in the school setting, and on physical beauty was grist to Bradford’s mill. d’Arch Smith (1970) speaks of Bradford’s poetry urging ‘the cultivation of a healthy celibacy recognizing masculine beauty’s pre-eminence’ (p. 124).

[66] Kegan Paul also published the Uranians John Addington Symonds, Mark André Raffalovich and Charles Edward Sayle (Kaylor (2010), p. lix).

[67] Timothy d’Arch Smith (ed.) (2001), The Quorum. A Magazine of Friendship. A facsimile edition with an Introduction by Timothy d’Arch Smith, Asphodel Editions, p. 4. In 1987, d’Arch Smith had written: ‘The most notorious Kegan Paul author, the Revd Edwin Emmanuel Bradford, between 1908 and 1930, paid for twelve volumes of cheery but flagrantly paedophilic poetry without anyone at Kegan Paul’s turning a hair’ (The Books of the Beast: Essays on Aleister Crowley, Montague Summers, Francis Barrett and Others, Wellingborough: Crucible, p. 36). By 2001 he had evidently found new information: ‘Bradford published twelve volumes of verse with the firm of Kegan Paul, only the first financed by the author, thereafter paying their way’, citing as a source the Kegan Paul Archives at University College London.

[68] ‘Clerical Appointments’, Norfolk Chronicle, 13 November 1909, p. 5.

[69] Simon Knott (2005), ‘Holy Trinity, Nordelph’, at http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/nordelph/nordelph.htm (accessed December 2022).

[70] Hillier (2002), p. 63.

[71] Communication from Jane Crapnell, grandniece of Sarah Esther Beales, to Simon Knott as reported at http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/nordelph/nordelph.htm (accessed December 2022).

[72] William Baker, Esq. (1851), A Practical Compendium of the Recent Statuses, Cases, and Decisions Affecting the Office of Coroner, London: Butterworths, pp. 552-4.

[73] Hillier (2002), p. 62.

[74] Ibid.

[75] Ibid., p. 63.

[76] Yelton (2009), p. 203. In a version of the story recounted by Betjeman’s daughter Candida Lycett Green, Bradford’s attempt to dig the swimming pool too close to the vicarage caused the building’s foundations to collapse, as a result of which he was forced to move out (Hillier (2002), p. 627).

[77] The publisher was okay with the more explicit content of later volumes: ‘the printing bill footed, Kegan Paul did not much care what their authors wrote about’ – d’Arch Smith (1987), p. 36. This might have been a different story had a brouhaha erupted over Bradford’s poetry, e.g. in the press, but that didn’t happen.

[78] Notwithstanding Bradford’s preference for traditional language, the literary and cultural historian Rictor Norton characterises his style as always having ‘an undertone of irony that marks him out as a distinctively modern poet.’ From ‘Blessed Are the Puer in Heart: E. E. Bradford’ (1974, 1998), on the website Gay History & Literature: Essays by Rictor Norton, at http://rictornorton.co.uk/bradford.htm (accessed December 2022). Webb (1988) refers to the ‘cheerful Edwardian charm of a style that can, perhaps, be described as Hinge & Brackett meet John Betjeman’ (p. 11). Eglinton (1964) agrees with a comparison he found somewhere of Bradford to Henry Austin Dobson and W. S. Gilbert (p. 398).

[79] ‘The Child Divine’, in Sonnets Songs & Ballads (1908), p. 12.

[80] ‘The Romance of Youth’, in The Romance of Youth and other Poems (1920), pp. 1-7. Bradford fashions himself as an iteration of the Boy Ideal: ‘How sweet to be a boy again— / Not what I was, but would be: / The boy I yearned to be in vain, / But knew I never could be: // The Boy Ideal, strong and brave, / Endowed with beauty flawless, / Gay as the gales of March, and save / To Love’s sweet law as lawless’ – ‘A Starry Night’, ibid., p. 15.

[81] ‘Boyhood’, ibid., p. 12.

[82] Children ‘have not as yet filled the air around them with clouds of sin to keep off the heavenly sunshine; they have not as yet driven away or greatly hampered the work of that Blessed Spirit Whose fruit is joy’ (Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year, p. 236).

[83] ‘Stranger and Pilgrim’, in The Romance of Youth and Other Poems (1920), p. 86.

[84] All in Passing the Love of Women and Other Poems (1913), a volume Bradford dedicated to Cottam.

[85] He even denounces ‘the mistake of the Renaissance in going back to paganism in its search for joy’ (Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year, p. 176).

[86] The Kingdom Within You and Other Poems (1927).

[87] The New Chivalry and Other Poems (1918), p. 31.

[88] ‘The Mad Wolf’, in Sonnets Songs & Ballads (1908), pp. 61-2.

[89] ‘Boyhood’, in The Romance of Youth and Other Poems (1920), p. 12.

[90] Bradford took his friendships seriously and preferred them to be tested by friction rather than remain superficial: ‘I feel far more confidence in a true friend after a sharp dispute—you then know the worst as well as the best of him.’ Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year (1907), p. 146.

[91] Brian Taylor (1976) identifies ‘misogyny and the erotic superiority of pederasty’ as one of the dominant motives in the Uranians’ work, a trend he explains as a strategy to combat guilt: ‘The Uranians, if they were satisfactorily to formulate in poetic form motivations for guilt-free pederasty, needed to topple from its pedestal the ideal conception of Womanhood which the Victorians erected as the symbol of acceptable love’. In ‘Motives for Guilt-Free Pederasty: Some Literary Considerations’, Sociological Review, 24.1, pp. 97-114. We’ll extrapolate what Taylor says to the Edwardian, WWI and interwar periods in which Bradford’s poetry books were published.

[92] ‘I found a world less scarred by vice / Than by vulgarity. Low plains / Where oft the Scarlet Woman reigns / Veiled as a nun. With judgment nice // She plays with moral problems—strains / Out gnats and swallows camels. Sex / Is all in all to her […]few are of this type; but small / In number, they can still perplex // The judgment of their sisters; call / Good evil, evil good; and smirch / The fame of manly love’ – ‘In Quest of Love’, pp. 11-2, in In Quest of Love and Other Poems (1914).

[93] ‘The New Chivalry’, in The New Chivalry and Other Poems (1918), pp. 25-6.

[94] Bradford’s remaining unsullied in that way safeguards his continued ability as an adult to commune with boyhood: ‘Thank heaven I am still a boy in heart’ – ‘The Earthly Paradise’, in In Quest of Love and Other Poems (1914), pp. 44-5. The association with Peter Pan is inevitable.

[95] ‘The Earthly Paradise’, ibid., pp. 44-5.

[96] ‘The New Woman’, ibid., pp. 41-2.

[97] Vivian Carter, ‘Thoughts on Things Read’, The Bystander, 2 April 1913, p. 42.

[98] Lays of Love and Life (1916), p. 62.

[99] Notwithstanding his propensity to disparage the love of women and his distaste for women’s lib, in his final earthly flourish Bradford left all his possessions to his female housekeeper. A further irony is that the fourth edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1992) included a quotation from his work that, taken alone, is favourable enough to women: ‘I walked with Will through bracken turning brown, / Pale yellow, orange, dun, and golden-red. / ‘God made the country and man made the town — / And woman made Society,’ he said.’ It’s the first stanza of ‘Society’, in The Romance of Youth and Other Poems (1920), pp. 45-6. The poem ends on the narrator’s observation that the previous night at dinner, in the midst of society, he and Will experienced solitude, but now, out on a walk in the woods, they wake to life and love.

[100] Lays of Love and Life (1916), pp. 83-4.

[101] J. Z. Eglinton (1964), Greek Love, New York: Oliver Layton Press, p. 398.

[102] Bradford saw Biblical warrant for a cheery disposition, commenting on Matthew 6:25 (‘Take no thought for your life’): ‘the real meaning of our Lord’s warning is that we must not be anxious […] Remember that the Gospels are in no sense a biography of our Blessed Lord. Nearly all His life, including what we should naturally suppose would be all the happiest part of it—His Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, and all His early Manhood, till He entered upon public life, are hardly mentioned. But by far the most important point is that where Christ is the Man of Sorrows He is not our example.’ Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year (1907), p. 242.

[103] ‘My Love Is Like All Lovely Things’, in Lays of Love and Life (1916), p. 110.

[104] ‘My Sweetheart’, ibid., p. 112. On the rivalry between a boy’s mother and his lover/playmate, compare the sonnet ‘Rupert’, which starts: ‘His mother and I are fellow worshippers, / His heart is her’s as much or more than mine; / But when we play beneath the dusky firs, / Breast-high in bracken, she can ne’er divine / What ’tis to be a Robin Hood’ (The Romance of Youth and Other Poems, p. 33). The staple of the mother-as-rival also features in Bradford’s story ‘How We Rescued a Slave at Tanjier’ (published in The Boy’s Own Paper in 1896), in which a boy arranges for a captain to invite him on a trip in his launch: ‘Mother didn’t much like the idea; she said she was afraid to trust me to Captain Grey, because he was so “eccentric.” She didn’t say that when he was here, of course, but afterwards, when she talked it over with father.’

[105] Norton (1974, 1998). ‘He doesn’t merely reflect or gaze upon something, but describes something as it happens and participates in a dramatic situation.’

[106] The Romance of Youth and Other Poems (1920), p. 32.

[107] In Quest of Love and Other Poems (1914), pp. 52-3.

[108] Kaylor (2010) asserts that ‘it would be less than honest to suggest that Edwin Emmanuel Bradford’s Boyhood (1930) reveals any improvement, stylistically or conceptually, over Sonnets, Songs & Ballads (1908), despite the fact that ten volumes of his verse had been published in the interim’ (p. xxi). Whether Bradford improved as a poet is open to debate, but Kaylor’s statement should not be taken to mean that the content and format of his poetry remained identical from the first book to the last.

[109] Eglinton (1964), p. 398.

[110] Brian Reade (ed.) (2017) (first published 1970), Sexual Heretics: Male Homosexuality in English Literature from 1850-1900, Abingdon and New York: Routledge, p. 53.

[111] ‘To find a book of poetry as readable as any novel is an astonishing experience’, wrote the Dundee Courier of Bradford’s 1930 work Boyhood (‘Poet of Youth’, 4 April 1931, p. 8).

[112] ‘To My Book’, in Lays of Love and Life (1916), p. 5.

[113] Sarah Ann Waters (1995) discusses Bradford’s appeal to the rhetoric of patriotic fervour and male energy (in the context of the Great War) to promote his reimagining of the ancient ‘paiderastic paradigm’ (Wolfskins and Togas: Lesbian and Gay Historical Fictions, 1870 to the Present, London: Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London (Ph.D. thesis), pp. 67-9. Note, by the way, that it was in the midst of the Great War that Bradford published his collection titled Lays of Love and Life.

[114] In Quest of Love and Other Poems (1914), p. 43.

[115] Kaylor (2010) notes that ‘to examine Uranian publishing history is to discover that Wilde’s trials had little or no negative impact on the movement’s publishing history, and perhaps even helped it to flourish’ (p. lviii).

[116] ‘To My Book’, in Lays of Love and Life (1916), p. 5.

[117] ‘In Quest of Love’, in In Quest of Love and Other Poems (1914), p. 10

[118] Ibid. ‘Childhood and Age’, pp. 49-50.

[119] Ibid., ‘The Heat of Love’, pp. 53-4.

[120] Ibid., ‘Pure Love’, p. 56.

[121] Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year (1907), p. 172.

[122] He also says Love assumes three forms: Desire, Fancy and Friendship. Lust, on the other hand, pleases itself regardless of who may suffer and springs from Hate – ‘In Quest of Love’, in In Quest of Love and Other Poems (1914), p. 13.

[123] ‘My Casus Belli’, in Lays of Love and Life (1916), p. 11.

[124] ‘Fomes Peccati’, in To Boys Unknown (1988), pp. 33-7. This well-constructed poem present an ingenious parable of a younger and older boy who love each other chastely; the older boy comes across a pair of girls and there is sexual tension. The younger girl is distressed, but the older girl seeks to seduce him. The situation is defused when a bell tolls for Evensong. The poem bears out that sexual awareness comes with age but is also awakened by a confrontation between the sexes, whereas in a world without womankind boys would love each other in a pure, undefiled way. The attempt ‘to associate sexual desire with women, whilst associating male love with purity and a greater spirituality’, says Alderson (1998), ‘was a particular strategy of many promoting same-sex love at this time’ (p. 68).

[125] ‘Current literature. Reviews of recent publications’, Freeman’s Journal, 25 April 1914 (p. 5).

[126] Frederick S. Roden (2002), Same-Sex Desire in Victorian Religious Culture, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 235.

[127] ‘Bradford’s praise of the boy and his body did not involve any kind of conscious carnal desire and hence was purer than heterosexual relations, a superior kind of love since carnality was not deemed a possibility.’ Michael Hatt (2006), ‘‘A great sight’: Henry Scott Tuke and his models’, in Jane Desmarais, Martin Postle and William Vaughan (eds.), Model and Supermodel: The Artist’s Model in British Art and Culture, Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press (p. 90). This reading seems to have missed Bradford’s ‘Corpus Sanum’, the last two stanzas of which read: ‘Youth’s tender body, clean and rosy white, / Is not that ‘flesh corrupt we have to fight’: / Its natural appetites are sane and right, / Its instincts true. // The mere word ‘carnal’ shall not me affright; / Nor will I cease, in puritans’ despite, / To love the boyish body with the sprite / And hymn it too’ – quoted in Eglinton (1964), p. 403.

[128] Webb (1988), p. 14.

[129] Ibid.

[130] Vivian Carter, ‘Thoughts on Things Read’, The Bystander, 2 April 1913, p. 42.

[131] Roden (2002), p. 235.

[132] The first stanza reads: ‘A lover of woman must learn to be / Content with one, and leave the rest; / But a lover of lads can do like me— / Make love to a hundred equally / And still love one the best.’ In In Quest of Love and Other Poems (1914), p. 43.

[133] Cf. the discussion of the difference in this respect between Bradford’s time and the post-WWII West in Vincent Geoghegan (2011), Socialism and Religion: Roads to Common Wealth, Routledge: London and New York, pp. 69-71.

[134] ‘Mr. Bradford is a lover of boys and he has sought for his inspiration amongst them with great success. He exalts the love of man and man or man and boy over that of man and woman’, wrote The Poetry Review: Volume XIV (Galloway Kyle (ed.), 1923, United Kingdom: Poetry Society), reviewing Ralph Rawdon: A Story in Verse (1922). Such lines are neither naive nor evasive, and perhaps our present age has such a hard time accepting that reviewers in Bradford’s day could have both understood and accepted his boy love because the modern age sees it as practically the most infamous crime imaginable. Surely Bradford’s contemporaries would have seen it that way too, the reasoning goes, if only they hadn’t been fooled into thinking Bradford was expressing Platonic friendship and Christian chivalry.

[135] ‘The New Chivalry and other Poems’, in The Educational Times and Journal of the College of Preceptors, vol. 71, part 1, 1919, p. 144.

[136] ‘A Group of Autumn Poets’, in The Birmingham Post, 20 September 1918, p. 3.

[137] ‘The New Chivalry and Other Poems’, in Belfast News-Letter, 3 January 1919, p. 6.

[138] This view – the opposite of the notion that Bradford harvested such affable reviews because of the reviewers’ naiveté – is espoused by Nicholas T. Parsons (not the Just a Minute man) in The Joy of Bad Verse (London: Collins, 1988): ‘he succeeded in getting the press to enter into a conspiracy of polite silence as to the obvious tendency of his verses’ (p. 293).

[139] According to d’Arch Smith (1970), Bradford’s volumes of verse ‘had a certain cachet in undergraduate circles disposed to titter at affections still enduring, if they looked into their hearts, from the tuckshop Schwärmerei of a public-school past’ (p. 4).

[140] E.g., ‘The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel’, ‘Monody on the Death of a Platonist Bank Clerk’ and the impressive ‘Shattered Image’, in John Betjeman (2006) (first published 1958), Collected Poems, London: John Murray.

[141] Cited in Hillier (2002), pp. 62-3.

[142] ‘The Romance of Youth’, in The Romance of Youth and Other Poems (1920), pp. 1-7.

[143] Betjeman’s remark that Bradford had neatly docketed press cuttings and articles, along with Bradford’s own comment that he had ‘kept a little daily account of my spare moments for years, and I have found this such a help in avoiding waste of time’ (Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year, p. 264) conveys the impression of a meticulous, methodical man.

[144] On church attendance by children, Bradford wrote: ‘Take the young and uncorrupted boy to church. Probably he will be bored. Then this shows that it is not natural for children to go to church. Let him wander freely in the fields and woods, and hold high communion with Nature. When he grows older he may appreciate a visit to a museum or an art gallery. Leave him alone. Let him develop his nature freely. Let there be no painful system of repression, no dwarfing of part of his character.’ (Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year, p. 195.)

[145] A poem such as ‘The Abbey’ (Sonnets Songs & Ballads, pp. 77-8) is an ode to the joys of church ritual.

[146] Bevis Hillier (1988), Young Betjeman, London: John Murray, p. 177. Bradford told Betjeman he was working on a poem about the love of a Modernist boy for an Anglo-Catholic boy; in the poem, the Modernist boy’s convictions triumphed.

[147] Bradford and Betjeman discussed the evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley and the physicists Arthur Eddington and James Jeans, and Bradford wrote: ‘Whether Revelation, as seems possible in the light of the Evolution theory, comes by degrees as man is prepared to receive it, or as we used to fancy in a series of infallible books that were guaranteed free from inaccuracies even in history and geography, is a question which we can leave to the experts.’ (Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year, p. 74.)

[148] Although as a Christian he believed the Jews to be ‘in darkness’ for having rejected Christ (Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year, p. 214), he doesn’t generally bear out anti-Semitism, but the poem ‘Saint Hugh of Lincoln’ (Sonnets Songs & Ballads, p. 107) repeats the libel, perhaps still widely believed at the time, that little Hugh was killed by the Jews. Elsewhere he lays into the boast of some Englishmen that they are better than other European nations (Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year, pp. 218-22).

[149] Several of Bradford’s poems hold forth on the vices of alcohol and gambling. In a letter to Christian World he put gambling, including the football pools, on a par with theft (‘Morality of Gambling’, Lynn Advertiser, 4 February 1938, p. 9). He further wrote: ‘Teetotalers, people who hate cruelty to animals, all religious professors who have any definite creed at all, are almost sure at times to appear in a comic light’ (Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year, p. 44).

[150] Sonnets Songs & Ballads (1908), pp. 63-4.

[151] ‘The Great and the Chief’, in The True Aristocracy (1923), p. 8.

[152] d’Arch Smith (1970), p. 89.

[153] ‘A Cry from the Fens’, in Sonnets Songs & Ballads (1908), pp. 73-4.

[154] I.e., Edmund or Edward Monson was his boyfriend – of whatever description, sexual or nonsexual – about 1905, the year in which Bradford moved from Eton to Upwell.

[155] The Queen in question would have been Queen Consort Mary of Teck, wife of George V. The Prince of Wales whom Bradford suspected of being a ‘Platonist’ was their womanising son Edward, who would rule briefly in 1936 but would abdicate the throne in order to marry the divorcee Wallis Simpson. Betjeman says Bradford used the term ‘Platonist’ a good bit, and Betjeman himself used it in the title of his poem ‘Monody on the Death of a Platonist Bank Clerk’. When Bradford’s poetry was called Platonic, for instance in reviews, this may not always have meant nonsexual love but may at times have been used as a euphemism for same-sex sexual attraction.

[156] Hillier (1988), pp. 176-7; Hillier (2002), pp. 14 & 190.

[157] Hillier (2002), pp. 14, 191 & 627. Betjeman cited the following lines in which Bradford went over the top sentimentally: ‘Once a schoolboy newly come, / Timid, frail and friendless, / Feared to face a footer scrum / Oh! The taunts were endless. // Suddenly he drew apart / Soon they heard him crying. / With a penknife in his heart / Home they brought him dying.’

[158] Hillier (1988), p. 177.

[159] Cf. Bradford’s rueful statement ‘It is so easy to put a ridiculous light on the actions of any kind of enthusiasts’, in Sermon Sketches for the Sundays of the Christian Year (1907), p. 44.

[160] d’Arch Smith (2001), p. 11.

[161] To cite a few examples: Graham Robb (2003) opines that ‘[t]he recurring characteristics of English ‘boy-worship’ are self-deception, trickery and bad poetry’ (Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century, London: Picador, p. 218). Noël Annan, in a letter in the London Review of Books, vol . 4, no. 6 (1 April 1982), calls the verse of Bradford and other Uranians ‘grotesquely comical’, adding: ‘The poetry of these paedophiles is atrocious.’ Bevis Hillier (2002) refers to Bradford’s ‘ludicrous paedophilic poems’ (p. 190). Bradford’s inclusion in anthologies such as Parsons’ The Joy of Bad Verse (1988) and – probably via Parsons – Kathryn Petras and Ross Petras’Very Bad Poetry (1997) is probably not solely on the strength of his occasional moralising and melodrama (tendencies that come to a head in a poem such as ‘His Mother Drinks’), but also due to the circumstance that an oeuvre built on the adoration of boys is seen as inherently ridiculous.

[162] As reported by Patrick Taylor-Martin (1983), John Betjeman: His Life and Work, London: Allen Lane, p. 79.

[163] ‘Poems of the Nineties chosen by John Betjeman’, in John Hadfield (ed.) (1965), The Saturday Book 25, London: Hutchinson. Betjeman selected poems by several Uranians, not worrying whether the poems were actually published in the nineties. ‘Paddy Maloy’ is in Sonnets Songs & Ballads (1908), p. 111.

[164] Auden’s ‘Letter to Lord Byron’ was first published in Letters from Iceland (1937); Betjeman’s ‘A Shropshire Lad’ in Old Lights for New Chancels (1940).

[165] Eglinton (1964) says a ‘light touch’ is ‘seldom found among the Calamites’ (p. 386). Calamites is his term for the Uranians; the latter term was subsequently popularised through d’Arch Smith’s study Love in Earnest.

[166] If Bradford’s and Cottam’s poetic efforts were not always rated too highly, they themselves did not necessarily fawn on each other’s productions. Cottam didn’t pull punches in handwritten comments in his copies of Bradford’s books. As an example, his copy of The True Aristocracy (1923) includes a detailed critique of a single unfortunate word choice of Bradford’s, ending on the triumphant conclusion: ‘E.E.B. has made one of his characteristic blunders.’ They corresponded with each other about such textual matters. Bradford wrote Cottam about the latter’s sole volume of poetry, Cameos of Boyhood and Other Poems (1930): ‘I am perfectly amazed and delighted […] I nearly always find books of verse unreadably dull. Yours is a complete exception.’ (d’Arch Smith (1970), Plate 21 facing p. 168; p. 123.) In 1935, however, he told Betjeman he thought Cottam was no poet and was going mad. Betjeman and Auden also thought Cottam in his later years was going mad and would ‘have to be taken away soon’ (Hillier (2002), p. 63).

[167] d’Arch Smith (2001), p. 5.

[168] Ibid., p. 6.

[169] Letters from Bradford to Leonard Green, Nordelph, 1922, quoted in Michael deHartington, English Homosexual Poetry of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, catalogue no. 3 (1972), p. 7.

[170] Kaylor (2010), pp. 4, 52.

[171] ‘New Books’, Bournemouth Guardian, 27 September 1913, p. 9.

[172] d’Arch Smith (2001), p. 13.

[173] d’Arch Smith (1970), p. 140.

[174] d’Arch Smith (2001), pp. 14-15.

[175] ‘Institute of British Poetry’, The Belfast News-Letter, 21 February 1917, p. 3.

[176] d’Arch Smith (ibid., p. 6) says that ‘Bradford’s being much of a jumper-into-bedder is not a speculation to be seriously entertained.’ While Bradford’s poetry suggests that he aspired to loftier ideals than casual lust, it suggests equally that he was far from a vestal virgin who sublimated his desires entirely into religion and poetry.

[177] d’Arch Smith (1970), p. 1.

[178] Minnie married Charles Pickering Roberts, a jeweller; Louis Henry married Laura Gwendoline Blackwood, daughter of the 4th Baronet Blackwood.

[179] ‘Petty Sessional Intelligence’, Lynn Advertiser, 22 November 1940, p. 5.

[180] E.g., he conducted a funeral service in November 1943 (‘Mrs. M. L. Clark (Nordelph)’, Lynn Advertiser, 5 November 1943, p. 2) and officiated at a wedding in December (‘Mr. L. G. Ireland—Miss A. M. Secker’, Lynn Advertiser, 3 December 1943, p. 4).

[181] ‘Deaths’, Lynn Advertiser, 11 February 1944, p. 1; ‘Clergy’s Tribute at Nordelph’, ibid., 3 March 1944,  p. 5.

[182] England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995.

[183] Communication from Jane Crapnell, the grandniece of Sarah Esther Beales, to Simon Knott as reported at http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/nordelph/nordelph.htm (accessed December 2022).

[184] Yelton (2009), p. 204.

[185] Simon Knott (2005), ‘Holy Trinity, Nordelph’, at http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/nordelph/nordelph.htm (accessed December 2022).

[186] Waters (1995), p. 72. Of course, there has been plenty of subsequent writing and activism, but Waters refers specifically to a culture and sexual discourse suffused with the example of classical Greece.

[187] At some point after 1934, Stuart Piggott, introduced to Bradford’s poetry by Betjeman, found out through Betjeman that Kegan Paul had a lot of unsold stock of Bradford’s books, which Piggott bought up (Hillier (2002), p. 14).

[188] Connor Wood (2021), ‘Decoding the Uranian Circle’, Exon 24, pp. 32–33, at https://www.exeter.ox.ac.uk/inc/uploads/2021/09/exon-21.pdf (accessed December 2022).

[189] Klaus Schmeh, ‘An unsolved cryptogram left behind by poet Edwin Emmanuel Bradford’, Cipherbrain, at https://scienceblogs.de/klausis-krypto-kolumne/2020/12/03/an-unsolved-cryptogram-left-behind-by-poet-edwin-emmanuel-bradford/ (accessed December 2022).



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