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On This Gay Day | Author Marguerite Yourcenar was born in 1903

Marguerite Yourcenar wrote the modern classic ‘Memories of Hadrian’

In 1903 author Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislaine Cleenewerck de Crayencour was born into a wealthy Belgium family. She adopted the surname of Yourcenar as her pen name, and later legally changed it to be her official name.

A student of literature, Yourcenar could read in English, French, Spanish and Italian.

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Her first novel Alexis was published in 1929. It tells the story of a young musician who writes to his wife, who has recently given birth to their first child, he explains that he can no longer deny that he is homosexual. The novel was considered very daring for its time.

In 1937 she translated Virgina Woolf’s The Waves into French. Yourcenar would spend her career writing her own novels, but also being a great essayist covering many varied topics.

Youcenar was bisexual and as war broke out in Europe she accepted an invitation from her partner, the literary scholar Grace Frick, to relocate to America. The couple remained together for decades until Frick passed away in 1979.

In 1951 Youcenar published her most acclaimed work Memories of Hadrian, a novel that she spent more than a decade writing. It was set in Ancient Rome and saw the Emperor Hadrian writing a letter to Marcus Aurelius.

In 1980 she became the first woman to be elected to the Académie française, the principle council for matters pertaining to the French language. The council was founded 1635.

The author died in 1987 aged 84, she is buried alongside her longtime partner Frick, and the house they lived in now serves as a museum documenting her life and work.


Homosexuality was decimalised in NSW in 1984

On this day in 1984 New South Wales decriminalised homosexuality, the bill had been passed on 22nd May, but it assented to on June 8th. The proposal to change the laws was put forward by Labor government of Neville Wran, and was passed with the support of some of the Liberal opposition including leader Nick Greiner.

The age of consent for gay men however was set at 18, while lesbians and heterosexual people the age of consent was 16. The age of consent would not be equalized until 2003. In 2014 the government expunged the records of all people charged with same-sex activities prior to 1984 and apologised for the original discriminatory laws.


Author E.M Forster died in 1970

Writer Edward Morgan Forster was born on January 1st, 1879. He would go on to write many best selling novels that often explored themes of class difference and hypocrisy.

His best-known works include Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), A Room with a View (1908), Howards End (1910) and A Passage to India (1924). He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 16 separate years.

He was a member of the literary circle known The Bloomsbury Group in the 1920s and 30s. The collection of writers and intellectuals included Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Vanessa Bell and Lytton Strachey.

During his lifetime Forster was open about his homosexuality to his close friends but kept it a secret from the public.

In 1913 he completed the first draft of his novel Maurice which was a same-sex love story. He revised the novel several times during his life and left strict instructions that it could not be published until after his death.

While Forster was the author of many popular novels that have stood the test of time, most of his best-known work was written at the beginning of his life. In later life he wrote plays, film scripts, short stories, biographies, travelogues and essays.

Forster passed away in 1970 and the age of 91, and the book was released posthumously the following year. It was later adapted into a 1987 film starring young upcoming British actors including Hugh Grant, James Whilby, and Robert Graves.  

OIP Staff, Image: Marguerite Yourcenar by Bernhard De Grendel, from Wikipedia, published under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 license. This post was first published in 2022. 

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