Poet and Pederast
Born 1849 Died 1932

Henry Richard Charles Somerset was born on the 7 December 1849, being the second son of the 8th Duke of Beaufort and his wife Georgiana Charlotte Curzon. After a fairly conventional upbringing Henry Richard became a Justice of the Peace for both Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, was elected the Member of Parliament for Monmouthshire in 1871, and was appointed to the office of Comptroller of the Royal Household in 1874. Along the way he married the Lady Isabella Caroline Cocks, daughter of Charles Somers Cocks, 3rd Earl Somers and Virginia Pattle on the 6th February 1872.

As far as his personal relationships were concerned Henry did his duty and fathered the necessary heir in the form of a son named Henry Charles Somers Augustus Somerset born in 1874 but it is undeniable that his true interests lay elsewhere. Although married to Isabel he had earlier developed an affection for a seven year old boy by the name of Harry Smith, which later turned into a more intimate relationship when Harry became seventeen. Of itself this was not necessarily a problem as far as nineteenth century aristocratic morality was concerned, as generally speaking the way in which such matters were dealt with was simply to keep quiet about them.

Unfortunately for Henry he had the misfortune to have the Lady Somers as a mother-in-law. An astonishing beauty in her youth, the Lady Somers was now a domineering busybody. Once she found out about her son-in-law's proclivities she whisked her daughter away and persuaded Isabel to sue for a separation citing Henry's immoral and criminal behaviour. (Which probably wasn't that difficult since Isabel was very religious, and at one time considered becoming a nun.) Henry was forced to resign his position as Comptroller of the Royal Household and fled the country in 1879. Matters turned out little better for Isabel, who was now ostracised by Society for having broken the first unwritten law of the British Aristocracy; thou shalt speak no evil. She was forced to retire to Reigate Priory in the country where she devoted the rest of her life to good works and later became President of the British Women's Temperance Movement.

Henry went to Italy where he was denied the company of his beloved Harry who was packed off to New Zealand where he later died in 1902. A disconsolate Henry took to writing poetry and a collection of his verses lamenting his loss were published by Chatto and Windus in 1889 as the Songs of Adieu. According to Timothy d'Arch Smith this should be regarded as the first published collection of Uranian Poetry, which is a collective term used by some critics to describe English verse of a pederastic nature written in the later nineteenth and early twentieth century. Unsurprisingly the Songs of Adieu was reviewed by Oscar Wilde in the Pall Mall Gazette on the 30th March 1889, although Wilde wasn't that impressed and remarked of the author "He has nothing to say and says it". Nevertheless it has been suggested that the character of Lord Henry in Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray is based on Henry Somerset.

Henry briefly returned to England for Edward VII's coronation in 1902, perhaps thinking that everyone would now have forgotten about him, but his mother-in-law had neither forgotten nor forgiven. She set a private detective on his tail and tried to persuade Scotland Yard to arrest him, and Henry fled back abroad. It was there he afterwards remained and he died in Italy on the 10th October 1932 at the age of eighty-two.

SOURCES

  • Brian Masters The Dukes: The Origins, Ennoblement and History of 26 Families (Blond and Briggs, 1975)
  • Alan Moore, A History of Redhill http://www.redhill-reigate-history.co.uk/lady%20somerset.htm
  • Michael Matthew Kaylor, Secreted Desires: The Major Uranians: Hopkins, Pater and Wilde http://www.mmkaylor.com/Secreted_Webpage_page_2.html
  • Information on SONGS OF ADIEU found on www.americanaexchange.com

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