Gay and Alcoholic: A Lost Autobiography

Robert Hutton’s Of Those Alone (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1958) may be the earliest memoir of a gay alcoholic writer.

I came upon the book’s existence serendipitously, while browsing the papers of Marty Mann at Syracuse University. Mann was the first woman to achieve sustained sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous and the founder of the National Council on Alcoholism in 1940. In a letter, Hutton thanked Mann for her help and revealed that he had portrayed her, thinly disguised, in his autobiography — as a character named Temeraire (an anagram of Mann’s nickname, Mart).

During the 1920s, when Hutton encountered Mann in London, she “was apt, when in her cups, to become belligerent and would have taken on and probably defeated Joe Louis.” When sober, by contrast, “she was a sagacious and amusing companion with a raffish insight into other people’s foibles.” Hutton also divulges that Temeraire “prefers women to men,” as did Mann herself, though she fiercely shielded her private life from public scrutiny.

Of Those Alone was written in the wake of the Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (1957) — familiarly known as the Wolfenden Report — which recommended that such acts, conducted in private between consulting adults, should no longer be proscribed or prosecuted. There was enormous controversy about these findings, and they did not take effect for a decade.

Published during the long interim, Of Those Alone decried the ignorance and intolerance of the British public. “The average individual,” states the dust jacket, “is baffled by something which appears to him to be both unnatural and vicious, and the tendency is for society to ostracise the offender.” The book, described as a “social document” as well as an “enthralling” human story, poses an issue for every “intelligent reader”: how much was the author a victim of “an outmoded and unimaginative legal ethical system, and how much was he himself to blame for the disasters which came upon him?” Hutton also takes up the prior question: whence homosexuality itself? Congenital or acquired? Destined by Nature or created by Nurture? Or both?

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