Queer Places:
Wixenford School, Ludgrove, Wokingham RG40 3AB, Regno Unito
Eton College, Windsor SL4 6DW, Regno Unito
University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2JD, Regno Unito
Villa La Pietra, Via Bolognese, 120, 50139 Firenze FI, Italia
Cimitero Evangelico agli Allori, Via Senese, 184, 50124 Firenze FI, Italia

Image result for Harold ActonSir Harold Mario Mitchell Acton CBE (5 July 1904 – 27 February 1994) was a British writer, scholar, and aesthete. He wrote fiction, biography, and autobiography. During his stay in China, he studied Chinese language, traditional drama, and poetry, some of which he translated.

He was born near Florence, Italy, of a prominent Anglo-Italian family. At Eton College, he was a founding member of the Eton Arts Society before going up to Oxford to read Modern Greats at Christ Church. He co-founded the avant garde magazine The Oxford Broom and mixed with many intellectual and literary figures of the age, including Evelyn Waugh, who based the character of Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited partly on him. Between the wars, Acton lived in Paris, London, and Florence, proving most successful as a historian, his magnum opus being a 3-volume study of the Medicis and the Bourbons.

After serving as an RAF liaison officer in the Mediterranean, he returned to Florence, restoring his childhood home La Pietra to its earlier glory. Acton was knighted in 1974 and died in Florence, leaving La Pietra to New York University.

Acton was Catholic;[17]:151f [18] his cultural and historical commitment to the Church remained unchanged throughout his life. Acton's name was first on a petition submitted to Rome in 1971 by British cultural élite, requesting that the traditional Latin rite of the Mass not be abrogated in England.[17]:359 [18] His mother, the heiress Hortense Lenore Mitchell, a dominating personality in his life who lived on until the age of 90, did not make life easy for him but he still remained the devoted and admiring son.[13]

After Acton's death, in reply to a magazine article that speculated both about the probable suicide of Acton's brother and about Acton's homosexuality, author A.N. Wilson remarked, "To call him homosexual would be to misunderstand the whole essence of his being" and that "He was more asexual than anything else".[19] The article, by American writer David Plante, described Acton's time at Oxford as a "virile aesthete-dandy," but noted that while in China during the 1930s Acton's predilection for boys led to a classified government document describing him as a "scandalous debauchee," and prevented the possibility of his serving in the intelligence services there, when war broke out. Plante also described the young men whom Acton welcomed to La Pietra, including Alexander Zielcke, a German photographer and artist who was Acton's lover for the last twenty-five years of his life.[19]

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When Acton died he left Villa La Pietra to New York University.[20] In leaving his family’s property and collection to New York University, Acton expressed his desire that the estate be used as a meeting place for students, faculty, and guests who might study, teach, write and do research, and as a centre for international programs.[20] Following his death, DNA testing confirmed the existence of a half-sister born out of wedlock, whose heirs have gone to court to challenge Acton's $500 million bequest to New York University.[21]

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Acton was buried beside his parents and brother, William Acton,, in the Roman Catholic section of the Cimitero Evangelico degli Allori in the southern suburb of Florence, Galluzzo (Italy).


  1. James Lord,1996, Some Remarkable Men: Further Memoirs, pp. TBD, New York, NY, USA: Macmillan-FSG, ISBN 0374266557, see [1], accessed 11 July 2015.[page needed]
  2. Maurizio Cuomo, et al., 2015, "Genealogy of the Acton family, including the Lyon-Dalberg-Actons, and the Actons of Aldenham [lower center of image]," at Il portale informativo di Castellammare di Stabia: Storia, Personaggi Illustri [The information portal of Castellammare di Stabia: History, Famous People], see [2], accessed 11 July 2015.[better source needed]
  3. ARTIC, 1908, "Catalog of the Twenty-First Annual Exhibition of Oil Paintings and Sculpture by American Artists, October 20 to November 29, 1908," p. iii, Chicago, IL, USA:The Art Institute of Chicago, see [3], accessed 11 July 2015.
  4. Martin Green, 2008 [1977], Children of the Sun: A Narrative of "decadence" in England After 1918, pp. 1–8, 94–117, 220, 393–395, 425f, Mount Jackson, VA, USA: Axios Press, ISBN 1604190019, see [4] or [5], or Martin Green, 1977, ibid., pp. 118–125,[verification needed] London, LND, GBN: Constable, ISBN 009461430X, see [6], both accessed 11 July 2015.
  5. Charlotte Eagar, 2011, "The house of secrets and lies," The Sunday Times (magazine, online), 3 July 2011, see [7], accessed 11 July 2015. Subtitle: "The art dealer Arthur Acton's love affair with an Italian beauty led to an illegitimate child, two exhumed bodies and a long-running, vicious feud."
  6. Evelyn Waugh, 1983, The Essays, Articles and Reviews of Evelyn Waugh, Donat Gallagher, Ed., London, LND, GBN: Methuen Limited, ISBN 0413503704, see [8], accessed 11 July 2015. "Page numbers given inline."
  7. Williams, Emlyn (1965) [1961]. George: An Early Autobiography. London, LND, GBN: New English Library (Four Square). Retrieved 11 July 2015. Page numbers given inline.
  8. Lancaster, Marie-Jaqueline (2005). Brian Howard: Portrait of a Failure. Timewell Press. p. 122. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  9. Waugh, Evelyn (1980). Mark Amory, ed. The Letters of Evelyn Waugh. London, LND, GBN: Orion-Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 1857992458. Page numbers given inline.
  10. Dougill, John (1998). Oxford in English Literature. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. p. 319. ISBN 0472107844. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  11. Harold Acton, Memoirs of an Aesthete, 1948.
  12. Andrew Gumbel, 1996, "Shadow of the Last Aesthete," The Independent (online), 14 April 1996, see [9], accessed 11 July 2015. [Subtitle: "In his Tuscan palazzo, Sir Harold Acton created what he hoped would be an enduring idyll. Two years after his death, the dream has turned sour."]
  13. Alan Pryce-Jones, 1994, "Obituary: Sir Harold Acton," The Independent (online), 28 February 1994, see [10], accessed 11 July 2015.
  14. John C. Jamieson, Cyril Birch & Yuen Ren Chao, 1974, "Shih-Hsiang Chen, Oriental Languages, Berkeley (1912–1971), Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature," at University of California, In memoriam, 1974 (online), pp. 20–22, Berkeley CA, USA: Academic Senate, Berkeley Division, p. 5, accessed 11 July 2015.
  15. Sir Harold Acton Is Dead At 89; Prototypic Esthete Of The 1920's John Darnton, New York Times 1 March 1994
  16. Crown Office, 1974, "State Intelligence, Honours and Awards… Harold Mario Mitchell Acton, Esquire, C.B.E.," London Gazette (online, 21 February 1974), Issue 46214, p. 2311, see [11], accessed 11 July 2015.
  17. Joseph Pearce, 2006, "Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief," San Francisco, CA, USA: Ignatius Press, ISBN 1586171593, see [12], accessed 11 July 2015.
  18. David Kubiak, Memories of an Aesthete Modern Age Vol 51 Nos 3-4 (Summer-Fall 2009)
  19. Andew Gumbel, Shadow of the Last Aesthete Independent 13 April 1996
  20. About Villa La Pietra
  21. Haden-Guest, Anthony (10 November 2014). "In Tussle Over Will, Mistress's Family Takes a Bite Out of NYU". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 10 November 2014.