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Marc-André Raffalovich
(September 11, 1864 - February 14, 1934) U.K.

Marc-André Raffalovich

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Marc-André RaffalovichBorn in Paris into a wealthy and cultivated Russo-Jewish family, Raffalovich went to England in 1882. His original intention had been to take his degree at Oxford University, but instead he settled in London. There, in his mansion in Mayfair, he entertained on a lavish scale with the object of founding a salon for writers and artists.

Oscar Wilde and others were amused by his attempts to push himself into the literary world through dinner parties. Wilde's jibe became famous: "Dear André! He came to London to found a salon and only succeeded in opening a saloon." Undeterred, and exemplifying the newly fashionable notion of homosexual as a poet, Raffalovich continued to pursue his literary interests.

Between 1884 and 1896 he published five volumes of verse, two novels and many articles, none of which received much recognition. In 1892 he met and fell in love with young poet John Henry Gray. The couple then dropped out of Wilde's circle.

Marc-André RaffalovichIn 1896 Raffalovich was received into Roman Catholic Church, taking the baptismal name of Sebastian. For the rest of his life he was a devout Catholic and a benefactor of the Dominican Order. When Gray went to Rome to study for the priesthood, Raffalovich paid his expenses.

In 1905 he followed Gray to Edinburgh and there he financed the building of St Peter's Church in Morningside, where Gray had been appointed rector and where he attended Mass every morning. The two men maintained separate households. Their friendship was intimate, though in public they treated each other with studied formality and detachement.

Raffalovich's exposition of the view that a homosexual orientation is both natural and morally neutral was a notable contribution to the late 19th century literature on the subject. But it was a mixed message, deeply impregnated with Roman Catholic moralism.

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Source: Father Brocard Sewell, Two Friends, John Gray and André Raffalovich, Saint Albert's Press, 1963
and: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History, from Antiquity to WWII, Routledge, London, 2001

Portrait by Eric Gill. Around 1920.

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