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Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel
(August 27, 1834 - 1894) U.K.

Roden Noel



Roden Noel, the son of Lord Barham Noel, Earl of Gainsboroughwas, educated at Harrow and Trinity, where he was elected a member of the Cambridge Apostles. He graduated (using the nobleman's privilege of not having to take exams?!) with a view to entering the church. But his "religious scruples" prevented him from so doing and he spent a year travelling in the Libyan desert with a friend, Horatio F. Brown, and eventually developed severe sunstroke, from which he was nursed back to health by the de Broe family in Beirut.

Paul de Broe was the Director of the Ottoman Bank there and Roden fell in love with his daughter, the tall and willowy Alice to whom he was later married in All Soul's, Langham Place. They had three children and it was the death of Conrad's little brother, Eric, from rheumatic fever, at the age of five, that engendered Roden's best known book A Little Child's Monument, which drew many comparisons with Tennyson's In Memoriam and went into three editions.

Roden's reputation as an essayist widened with his publication in 1886 of Essays on Poetry & Poets, and towards the end of his too short life, he frequently lectured on poets, donating the proceeds to the welfare of poor children.

Roden Noel's great-uncle Percy Jocelyn, the Bishop of Clogher, in 1822 was discovered in the arms of a soldier in a tavern at St Alban's Place, London, and subsequently broke bail and fled to Scotland to escape imprisonment. In Noel's brief sexual autobiography contributed to Havelock Ellis's Sexual Inversion (published in 1897), he obliquely refers to this incident, claiming that his homosexuality was therefore "hereditary and inborn," and that, in fact, his whole family tended toward it.

He also states, rather candidly, that he was "immensely vain of my physical beauty," and that he particularly enjoyed "long hours of voluptuous communion during which my lover admires me. ... I am much preoccupied with my personal appearance and fond of admiration; on one occasion I was photographed naked as Bacchus."

Noel earliest fond memory was "the caresses of my father's footmen when I was quite a little boy." He did not particularly enjoy heterosexual intercourse. Legend has it that he was the first man to sleep with John Addington Symonds, the famous scholar-critic-poet, a genius and the most important figure in the Victorian sexual reform movement. Whether or not this legend is true, it is certain that they were lovers for a time, and together they became active disciples of Walt Whitman's theory of comradeship.

Roden Noel was not yet 60 when he died from "ossification of the heart" at Mainz station, where he was about to catch a train to Stuttgart in order to visit his sister-in-law.


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