A Marriage Below Zero
  • Publication Date: December 1, 2017
  • ISBN: 9781551119830 / 1551119838
  • 275 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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A Marriage Below Zero

  • Publication Date: December 1, 2017
  • ISBN: 9781551119830 / 1551119838
  • 275 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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A Marriage Below Zero is the first novel in English to explicitly explore the subject of male homosexuality. Written by a British émigré to America, the New York theater critic Alfred J. Cohen, under the pseudonym of “Alan Dale,” this first-person narrative is told by a young Englishwoman, Elsie Bouverie, who gradually discovers that her new husband, Arthur Ravener, is romantically involved with another man. Denounced on publication (“a saturnalia in which the most monstrous forms of human vice exhibit themselves shamelessly,” wrote one reviewer), the novel was published during the public exposure of a London homosexual brothel frequented by upper-class men and telegraph boys. A Marriage Below Zero reflected late-nineteenth-century fears and anxieties about homosexuality, women’s position in marriage, and the threat that seemingly new, illicit forms of desire posed to marriageable women and to the Victorian family.

This Broadview edition includes excerpts from the era’s pro-homosexual tracts, scientific and legal documents, contemporary feminist commentary on the new “dandyism,” and newspaper accounts of late-Victorian same-sex scandals. Highlights of the volume include excerpts from Charles Dickens’s 1836 account of his visit to Newgate Prison, where he witnessed the last two men in Britain executed for sodomy, George Bernard Shaw’s 1889 unpublished letter attacking the social purity movement’s legislation against homosexual men, and a never-before-reprinted 1898 article from Reynolds’s Newspaper, “Sex Mania,” that warned of an increasing number of homosexual men choosing to enter marriages as a cover for an illicit life.


A Marriage Below Zero is an invaluable edition of the first novel about homosexuality in English, edited by Richard Kaye, who rediscovered the 1889 text. Kaye’s erudite and entertaining introduction puts it in the context of the late-Victorian sensation novel, a doubly-closeted writer, and the social history of male same-sex relationships, plus a scandalous divorce trial. A fascinating selection of legal, literary, and psychological materials rounds off this splendid seminar in one volume.” — Elaine Showalter, Professor Emerita, Princeton University

“The Broadview Edition is excellent … For anyone with an interest in Victorian gender studies, this is the go-to edition.” — Times Literary Supplement

Same-Sex Scandal in Nineteenth-Century Britain: A Brief Chronology
Alfred J. Cohen: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

A Marriage Below Zero

Appendix A: Contemporary Reviews

  1. From The New York World (26 February 1889)
  2. From The New York World (22 March 1889)
  3. From The New York World (25 March 1889)
  4. From The New York Daily Graphic (5 April 1889)
  5. From Sacramento Daily Record-Union (20 April 1889)
  6. From Belford’s Magazine (June 1889)
  7. From Countess Annie De Montaigu, “Hot and Sticky,” Los Angeles Times (11 August 1889)
  8. From “Professional Reform,” The San Francisco News Dealer (September 1890)
  9. From The Los Angeles Herald (21 February 1891)
  10. From The Cincinnati Enquirer (5 March 1891)
  11. From the Los Angeles Times (3 December 1891)

Appendix B: Two Nineteenth-Century Historical and Literary Instances of Same-Sex Coupledom

  1. Charles Dickens, “A Visit to Newgate” (1836)
  2. From Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877)

Appendix C: Modes of Homosexual Exploration and Advocacy in Nineteenth-Century Britain

  1. From Walter Pater, “Conclusion,” Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873)
  2. From John Addington Symonds, “Male Love,” A Problem in Greek Ethics and Other Writings (1883)
  3. From Sir Richard Burton, “Pederasty,” in the “Terminal Essay” to The Book of a Thousand Nights and One Night (1885)
  4. George Bernard Shaw, Letter on “The Cleveland Street Scandals,” Truth Magazine (26 November 1889)
  5. From John Addington Symonds, The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds (1892)
  6. From Charles Kains Jackson, “The New Chivalry,” The Artist and Journal of Home Culture (2 April 1894)
  7. From Edward Carpenter, Homogenic Love, and Its Place in a Free Society (1894)
  8. Alan Dale (Alfred J. Cohen), “A Word from the Author,” An Eerie He and She (1889)

Appendix D: Late-Victorian Legal and Medical Models and the New Social Panic

  1. From Section 11 of the 1885 Criminal Amendment Bill
  2. From Richard Krafft-Ebing, “Case 237,” Psychopathia Sexualis: A Medico-Forensic Study (1886)
  3. “Sex-Mania,” Reynolds’s Newspaper (21 April 1895)
  4. From Olive Schreiner, “The Woman Question,” Cosmopolitan Magazine (1889)

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Richard A. Kaye is Associate Professor of English at Hunter College and in the PhD Program in English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.