London had networks of places for men to hook up, from theaters and clubs to the train stations, parks, and museums. As Matt Cook notes, “the homosexual life of the city was rarely out of the eye and the newspaper-reading public had consistent reminders of it” (48). In Sheffield, Edward Carpenter, inspired by Victorian socialist ideals and the poetry of Walt Whitman, had become a prophet of gay rights and even published a major defense of love between men, Homogenic Love and Its Place in a Free Society (1894) (Elfenbein). Yet Carpenter could be ignored because his writings about sexuality had a small circulation, while Wilde was in the glare of London publicity. Although the Wilde trials may look like an originary moment for the public response to homosexuality, they were part of a much longer history of the surveillance and policing of sex between men.


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