University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3PA, UK
John Francis Bloxam (December 17, 1873 - April 6, 1928) was an English Uranian author and churchman. A Summer Hour (1894, wrote as Bertram Lawrence) and The Priest and the Acolyte (1894) are cited as examples in Sexual Heretics: Male Homosexuality in English Literature from 1850-1900, by Brian Reade.
Bloxam was an undergraduate at Exeter College, Oxford when his story, "The Priest and the Acolyte", appeared in the sole issue of The Chameleon: a Bazaar of Dangerous and Smiling Chances, a periodical which he also served as editor. The story details the love affair of a young Anglican priest and his lover, a 14-year-old boy. The affair, when discovered, triggers a suicide pact of both priest and boy. A poem, A Summer Hour appeared in The Artist. The contents of The Chameleon, which also included Lord Alfred Douglas's notorious poem Two Loves, which concludes with the most famous line in homoerotic literature: "I am the love that dare not speak its name," would be used against Oscar Wilde in his trial. Bloxam was a convert to Anglo-Catholicism, and became a priest.
John Francis Bloxam was “an undergraduate of strange beauty” at Exeter College, Oxford, when, in June 1894, he wrote this story. He published it, the pseudonym of "X," the following December in the only issue of The Chameleon: a Bazaar of Dangerous and Smiling Chances, with a printing of 100 copies, a periodical of which he was the editor, and to which Oscar Wilde also contributed "Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young," which concludes with a line that he later used in An Ideal Husband: "To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance" (suggesting the homoerotic fable of Narcissus). After only one issue the publishers Gay and Bird announced that it would not continue. Echoes from The Picture of Dorian Gray are evident, as in the priest's remark to his superior that "there are sins more beautiful than anything else in the world." Timothy d'Arch Smith writes that Bloxom's story "may perhaps be considered the first piece of English fiction to echo the firmly-founded French syndrome of the 'naughty' priest".
Bloxam soon went on to become an Anglo-Catholic priest, well-loved and described by his friends “as a remarkable influence on any boy with whom he came into contact. Being wealthy, Father Bloxam put many of them on the road to good careers.” The main historical interest of the story lies in its being the most overtly pederastic contribution to The Chameleon, for which reason it may be presumed to have had a key role both in the suppression of the periodical and in discrediting Oscar Wilde, who was held by association to be guilty of corrupting youth. When the Chameleon appeared, Wilde wrote to Ada Leverson: "The Priest and the Acolyte" is not by Dorian [that is, John Gray]: though you were right in discerning by internal evidence that the author has a profile. He is an undergraduate of strange beauty. The story is, to my ears, too direct: there is no nuance: it profanes a little by revelation: God and other artists are always a little obscure. Still, it has interesting qualities, and is at moments poisonous: which is something. “The rich, heady eroticism of ‘The Priest and the Acolyte’ owes its existence to a certain type of nineteenth-century French literature which zealously emphasized an essentially paederastic bias on the part of the clergy.”
Bloxam had met Wilde in George Ives's rooms in the Albany, at which time he showed his story to Wilde, who urged him to publish it. In Act II of The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde facetiously includes a remark by Jack Worthing, who has rented his Belgrave Square house to a Lady Bloxham (slightly altering Bloxam's name), who never appears in the play: "She is a lady considerably advanced in years" - to which Lady Bracknell responds: "Ah, nowadays that is no guarantee of respectability of character." In his libel suit against the Marquess of Queensberry, Wilde was cited in Queensberry's "plea of justification" as one who had joined in publishing the magazine. Though a contributor to the magazine, he denied that he had a hand in its publication. Furthermore, he testified - inaccurately - that he had not known of "The Priest and the Acolyte" until its appearance in the Chameleon. When asked for his opinion of the story, Wilde remarked (in a decided but understandable shift of opinion under the circumstances): "I thought it bad and indecent, and I strongly disapproved of it". Bloxam was never called as a witness in any of Wilde's trials.
After graduating from Exeter College a few weeks after Wilde's final trial, Bloxam went on to Ely Theological College, took orders in 1897-98 in the Church of England, and returned to Exeter for his MA in 1901. Following a series of curateships in London, he served as a chaplain in the First World War, and after his discharge, resumed his religious duties in London, becoming vicar in what J. Z. Eglinton calls the "desperate slum of Hoxton" between 1922 and 1927. He apparently did not publish anything after 1894.
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