Wife Edith Lees
St Thomas' Hospital, Westminster Bridge Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 7EH, Regno Unito
Dover Mansions, 14 Canterbury Cres, Brixton, London SW9, Regno Unito
Golders Green Crematorium, 62 Hoop Ln, London NW11 7NL, Regno Unito
Henry Havelock Ellis, known as Havelock Ellis (2 February 1859 – 8 July 1939), was an English physician, writer, progressive intellectual and social reformer who studied human sexuality. His longtime friend and travelling companion was Arthur Symons. His female relationships included, other than his wife Edith Lees, also Faith Oliver (in 1926), Françoise Lafitte-Cyon and Olive Schreiner. Havelock Ellis’s 1896 book Sexual Inversion was the first book in English to argue that homosexual behaviour was not a crime or a disease. Ellis believed that people were born homosexual. He had lived in Croydon as a young man and the book included information on Edith Lees, who had lived in nearby Sydenham, and who was a model for his construction of the lesbian.
The British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology (BSSSP), of which Edith Lees Ellis was a member, was established in 1913 to provide a forum for the discussion of new ideas in the field of sex reform. The first woman member of the society was the militant suffragist Cicely Hamilton, and she was soon joined by a number of other notable feminists, such as Kathlyn Oliver and Stella Browne, and by Mrs Mary Scharlieb, one of the first women to gain a medical qualification in Britain. The membership of these women suggests that feminism and sexuology were not necessarily antithetical views and feminists did not reject the idea of sexologists such as Havelock Ellis and Edward Carpenter.
Havelock Ellis co-authored the first medical textbook in English on homosexuality in 1897, and also published works on a variety of sexual practices and inclinations, as well as on transgender psychology. He is credited with introducing the notions of narcissism and autoeroticism, later adopted by psychoanalysis. Ellis was among the pioneering investigators of psychedelic drugs and the author of one of the first written reports to the public about an experience with mescaline, which he conducted on himself in 1896. He supported eugenics and served as president of the Eugenics Society.
Henry Havelock Ellis Henry A. Bishop (1868–1939) National Portrait Gallery, London. This portrait depicts Havelock Ellis in his writing studio, adjoining the cottage at Carbis Bay, Cornwall where he and his wife Edith spent their winters during the 1890s.
In November 1891, at the age of 32, and reportedly still a virgin, Ellis married the English writer and proponent of women's rights, Edith Lees. From the beginning, their marriage was unconventional, as Edith Lees was openly lesbian. At the end of the honeymoon, Ellis went back to his bachelor rooms in Paddington. She lived at Fellowship House. Their "open marriage" was the central subject in Ellis's autobiography, My Life.
Edith Lees Ellis suffered from poor health in her forties. In March 1916 she suffered from a severe nervous breakdown and entered a local convent nursing home at Hayle in Cornwall. Soon afterwards she attempted suicide by throwing herself from the fourth floor. Havelock Ellis wrote to Edward Carpenter: "Quite what she was feeling and thinking these last few days I do not know. It was some kind of despair. She has been despondent and self-reproachful as not having lived up to her ideals for some time past, and has lost her faith in things and in her spirit... The condition has been fundamentally neurasthenia, with mental symptoms - distressing loss of will power and helplessness."
Edith was eventually released but was forced back to hospital and died of diabetes in September 1916. Havelock Ellis told Margaret Sanger: "She was always a child, and through everything, a very lovable child, to the last. Even friends whom she only made during the last few weeks are inconsolable at her loss." Two years later he arranged for the publication of her James Hinton: a Sketch (1918).
According to Ellis in My Life, his friends were much amused at his being considered an expert on sex. Some knew that he suffered from impotence until the age of 60. He then discovered that he could become aroused by the sight of a woman urinating. Ellis named this "undinism". After his wife died, Ellis formed a relationship with a French woman, Françoise Lafitte.
Françoise Lafitte-Cyon had been doing some translating work for Edith shortly before her death. Havelock first met her to pay an outstanding bill. They began meeting and on 3rd April 1918, Françoise, who was twenty years his junior, declared her love for the older man. Havelock wrote back that "I feel sure that I am good for you, and I am sure that you suit me. But as lover or a husband you would find me very disappointing." Havelock's relationship with Françoise blossomed. Stella Browne wrote to Margaret Sanger that "Ellis is looking better than I've seen him for some time: he seems slowly recovering from all he had to go through last year." They eventually moved into a cottage in Wivelsfield Green.
Ellis resigned from his position of Fellow of the Eugenics Society over their stance on sterilization in January 1931.
Ellis spent the last year of his life at Hintlesham, Suffolk, where he died in July 1939. He is buried at Golders Green Crematorium, north London. All his papers went to Françoise Lafitte-Cyon and after her death, to her son, François Lafitte.
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