Skip to main content


  • Nancy Henry (a1)

The fifteenth-century Florentine world that George Eliot studied and recreated in Romola (Cornhill Magazine, July 1862–August 1863) was characterized by the idea of love between males and the practice of sex between males. Same sex desire took various forms from the love of the older teacher for his pupil to the illegal but common practice of penetrating adolescent boys, for which many fifteenth-century Florentine men were prosecuted, particularly under the regime of the Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola (1494–98). The monasteries themselves constituted an intense, all-male community of voluntary celibacy. These various sexual behaviors co-existed with more visible heterosexual institutions and practices, from the often politicized arranged marriages of the wealthy elite to the casual coupling of the peasant classes.

Hide All
A Century of George Eliot Criticism. Ed. Haight, Gordon S.. London: Methuen, 1966. Print.
Bonaparte, Felicia. The Triptych and the Cross: The Central Myths of George Eliot's Poetic Imagination. Brighton: Harvester, 1979. Print.
Carpenter, Mary Wilson. George Eliot and the Landscape of Time. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1986. Print.
Carroll, David, ed. George Eliot: The Critical Heritage. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1971. Print.
Cestaro, Gary P. “Lesbian and Gay Writing.” Encyclopedia of Italian Literary Studies. Ed. Marrone, Gaetana, Puppa, Paolo, and Somigli, Luca. New York: Routledge, 2007. 1029–34. Print.
Craft, Christopher. Another Kind of Love: Male Homosexual Desire in English Discourse, 1850–1920. Berkeley: U of California P, 1994. Print.
Dall'Orto, Giovanni. “‘Socratic Love’ as a Disguise for Same-Sex Love in the Italian Renaissance.” The Pursuit of Sodomy: Male Homosexuality in Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe. Ed. Gerard, Kent and Hekma, Gert. New York: Harrington Park, 1989. 3366. Print.
[Alighieri], Dante. Inferno. Translated with commentary by Singleton, Charles S.. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1970. Print.
de Cossart, Michael. Antonio Beccadelli and the Hermaphrodite. Liverpool: Janus, 1984. Print.
DeLaura, David J.Romola and the Origin of the Paterian View of Life.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 21.3 (Dec. 1966): 225–33. JSTOR. Web. 12 May 2010.
Dellamora, Richard. Friendship's Bonds: Democracy and the Novel in Victorian England. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2004. Print.
Dowling, Linda. Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian Oxford. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1994. Print.
Eliot, George. “Florentine Notes.” Manuscript Notebook. MS 40768. British Library, London.
Eliot, George. “A George Eliot Holograph Notebook: An Edition; (MS Don. G 8) Held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.” Ed. Thompson, Andrew. George Eliot - G. H. Lewes Studies 50–51 (September 2006): 1109. Print.
Eliot, George. The George Eliot Letters. Ed. Haight, Gordon S.. 9 vols. 1954–78. New Haven: Yale UP, 1978. Print.
Eliot, George. The Journals of George Eliot. Ed. Harris, Margaret and Johnston, Judith. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print.
Eliot, George. Middlemarch. 1871–72. Ed. Carroll, David. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997. Print.
Eliot, George. Romola. 1862–63. Ed. Brown, Andrew. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1994. Print.
Eliot, George. Some George Eliot Notebooks. An Edition of the Carl H. Pforzheimer Library's George Eliot Holograph Notebooks. Vol. 2. MSS 709. Ed. Baker, William. Salzburg: Institut Fur Anglistik und Amerikanistik. Universitat Salzburg, 1984. Print.
Fraser, Hilary. The Victorians and Renaissance Italy. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992. Print.
Gilson, Simon A. “Marsilio Ficino.” Encyclopedia of Italian Literary Studies. Ed. Marrone, Gaetana, Puppa, Paolo, and Somigli, Luca. New York: Routledge, 2007: 721. Print.
Godman, Peter. From Poliziano to Machiavelli: Florentine Humanism in the High Renaissance. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1998. Print.
Gordon, Lesley. “Greek Scholarship and Renaissance Florence in George Eliot's Romola.” George Eliot and Europe. Ed. Rignall, John. Warwick Studies in the European Humanities. Aldershot: Scolar, 1997. Print.
Gouws, Dennis. “George Eliot's enthusiastic bachelors: topical fictional accounts of nineteenth-century homoerotic Christian masculinities and the manhood question.” Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table 2 (2008): 116. Web. 17 May 2010.
Gray, Beryl. “Power and Persuasion: Voices of Influence in Romola.” From Author to Text: Re-reading George Eliot's Romola. Ed. Levine, Caroline and Turner, Mark W.. Brookfied: Ashgate, 1998. Print.
Halperin, David M.How to Do the History of Homosexuality. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2002. Print.
Henry, Nancy. “George Eliot, G. H. Lewes and Comparative Anatomy.” George Eliot and Europe. Ed. Rignall, John. Warwick Studies in the European Humanities. Aldershot: Scolar, 1997. 4463. Print.
Hill, Donald. “Pater's Debt to Romola.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 22.4 (March 1968): 361–77. JSTOR. Web. 13 May 2010.
Jenkyns, Richard. The Victorians and Ancient Greeks. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1980. Print.
Jovius, Paulus (Paolo Giorio). Elogia Virorum litteris illustrious. 1546. Translated as An Italian Portrait Gallery. Boston: Chapman and Grimes. Trans. Gragg, F. A., 1935. Web. 14 May 2010.
Kestner, Joseph A.Masculinities in Victorian Painting. Aldershot: Scolar, 1995. Print.
Malley, Shawn. “‘The Listening Look’: Visual and Verbal Metaphor in Frederic Leighton's Illustrations of George Eliot's Romola.” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 19.3 (1996): 259–84. Print.
McCormack, Kathleen. George Eliot's English Travels: Composite Characters and Coded Communication. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.
Muscau, Francesca. “From artificial art to dissolute beauty: The Renaissance in George Eliot and Walter Pater.” Diss. State University of New York at Buffalo, 2005. Print.
O'Connor, Eugene. Introduction. Hermaphroditus. By Antonio Panormita. Trans. O'Connor, Eugene. New York: Lexington Books, 2001. 115. Print.
Ormond, Leonee. “Angels and Archangels: Romola and the Paintings of Florence.” From Author to Text: Re-reading George Eliot's Romola. Ed. Levine, Caroline and Turner, Mark W.. Brookfield: Ashgate, 1998. Print.
Pequigney, Joseph. “Sodomy in Dante's Inferno and Purgatorio.” Representations 36 (Autumn 1991): 2242. JSTOR. Web. 14 May 2010.
Poliziano, Angelo. “Orfeo.” Trans. Symonds, John Addington. Sketches and Studies in Southern Europe. Vol. 1. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1880. Print.
Rocke, Michael. Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. Print.
Saslow, James M.Ganymede in the Renaissance: Homosexuality in Art and Society. New Haven: Yale UP, 1986. Print.
Savonarola, Girolamo. Selected Writings of Girolamo Savonarola: Religion and Politics, 1490–1498. Trans. and ed. Donald Beebe, Borelli, Anne and Passaro, Maria Pastore. New Haven: Yale UP, 2006. Print.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. New York: Columbia UP, 1985. Print.
Smith, Alan K. “Fraudomy: Reading Sexuality and Politics in Burchiello.” Queering the Renaissance. Ed. Goldberg, Jonathan. Durham: Duke UP, 1994. 84106. Print.
Symonds, John Addington. “Politian.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. 9th ed. 1885. The John Addington Symonds Pages. 1997. Ed. Norton, Rictor. Web. 21 May 2010.
Symonds, John Addington. “Poliziano's Italian Poetry.” Fortnightly Review 14.80 (August 1873): 163. Print.
Symonds, John Addington. The Revival of Learning. 1877. and Popular Secular Poetry. 1881. Vols. 2 and 4 of The Renaissance in Italy. 1875–86. 7 Vols. New York: Georg Olms Verlag, 1972. Print.
Symonds, John Addington. Sketches and Studies in Italy. London: Smith, Elder, 1879. Print.
Thompson, Andrew. George Eliot and Italy: Literary, Cultural and Political Influences from Dante to the Risorgimento. New York: St. Martin's, 1998. Print.
Turner, Mark W. “George Eliot v. Frederic Leighton: Whose Text is it Anyway?” From Author to Text: Re-reading George Eliot's Romola. Ed. Levine, Caroline and Turner, Mark W.. Brookfield: Ashgate, 1998. Print.
Upchurch, Charles. Before Wilde: Sex Between Men in Britain in the Age of Reform. Berkeley: U of California P, 2009. Print.
Villari, Pasquale. The Life and Times of Girolamo Savonarola 1859. Trans. Villari, Linda. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1888. Print.
Walton, Brad. “Poliziano.” glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. 2002. glbtq, Inc. Web. 14 May 2010.
Witemeyer, Hugh. George Eliot and the Visual Arts. New Haven: Yale UP, 1975. Print.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Victorian Literature and Culture
  • ISSN: 1060-1503
  • EISSN: 1470-1553
  • URL: /core/journals/victorian-literature-and-culture
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 41 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 321 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th July 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.