Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

To a hammer, everything is a nail

I haven't read the book, but apparently C.A. Tripp is claiming that, in fact, Lincoln was homosexual. The problem with so many of these gay scholars is that they are historically ill-informed. (And, to do it credit, the NY Times article I'm relying on for this post cites scholars who point to Tripp's historical errors.) "Shocking and meaningful," they say, "that people of the same sex shared beds." Well, they did in those days because historically people had always shared beds. It was a result of poverty, lack of heat, and historical precedent (witness the fact that many of Europe's poor for centuries had shared family and household beds, or the fact that most inns in historic times jumbled poor travelers into shared beds, or that servants routinely were doubled-up in beds). "Horrors," they say. "These people kissed on the mouth." Well, men and women often did that because it was a traditional way of greeting going back to the Renaissance. Certainly it was ordinary for Henry VIII's court. Was he gay? "Oh, my goodness," they say. "He sent a letter of love to a man." But that was normative writing in the Victorian era, when people frequently used loving, indeed romantic terms, to describe friends. Having said all this, Tripp may well be right. Lincoln may have been gay. I haven't read the book, so am totally unqualified to go beyond these generalizations. But to a hammer, everything is a nail, and I've noticed that Gay Studies scholars tend to find any small (and shaky) evidence to draw big conclusions about historical figures.