Synopses & Reviews
Samuel Steward (1909andndash;93) was an English professor, a tattoo artist for the Hells Angels, a sexual adventurer who shared his considerable range of experiences with Alfred Kinsey, and a prolific writer of everything from scholarly articles to gay erotica (under the penname Phil Andros). Given this biography, he sounds like a most unlikely contributor to a trade magazine like the Illinois Dental Journal
. Yet from 1944 to 1949, writing under the name Philip Sparrow, Steward produced monthly columns for the journal that were full of wit and flourish and that constituted a kind of disguised autobiography, with their reflections on his friendships and experiences and their endless allusions to his trove of multifarious knowledge.and#160;
For Philip Sparrow Tells All, Jeremy Mulderig has gathered thirty of Stewardandrsquo;s most playful and insightful columns, which together paint a vivid portrait of 1940s America. In these essays we spend time with Stewardandrsquo;s friends like Gertrude Stein, Andrandeacute; Gide, and Thornton Wilder (who was also Stewardandrsquo;s occasional lover). We hear of his stint as a holiday sales clerk at Marshall Fieldandrsquo;s (where he met and seduced Rock Hudson), his roles as an opera and ballet extra in hilariously shoddy costumes, his hoarding tendencies, his disappointment with the drabness of menandrsquo;s fashions, and his dread of turning forty. We go along with him to a bodybuilding competition and a pet cemetery, and together we wander the boulevards of Paris and the alleys of Algiers. Throughout, Mulderigandrsquo;s entertaining annotations identify Stewardandrsquo;s often obscure allusions and tie the essays to the people and events of the day.
Many decades later, Stewardandrsquo;s writing feels as stylistically fresh and charming as it did in his time. With richly detailed introductions to the essays that situate them in the context of Stewardandrsquo;s fascinating life, Philip Sparrow Tells All will bring this unusual and engaging writer to a fresh readership beyond the dental chair.
Praise for Secret Historian
“Somewhere in the United States, there may be an attic containing the written remnants of a previously unchronicled 20th-century life that was even more astonishing than the one the writer Justin Spring discovered in San Francisco a few years ago. But even the most skeptical reader of his new book, Secret Historian, will have to admit that the bar is now set high. Samuel Steward, the subject of this absorbing act of biographical excavation, had many identities, including several that the subtitle of the book omits . . . Be assured that its all for real, and that Spring, even when neck-deep in sensational material, is not a sensationalist. As a biographer, hes humble but firm—he lets Stewards vivid, energetic prose do much of the talking but keeps his own hand on the tiller and never gets giddy, even when Steward seems to be carousing his way through the entire Modern Library . . . The probity and expansive vision of Springs work is a reminder that a great, outspread terrain of gay history remains to be mapped . . . One suspects there are many more stories of that time worth telling, and too few treasure-packed attics.” —Mark Harris, The New York Times Book Review
“Can a secret sex diary furnish an artistic legacy as meaningful as Emily Dickinsons sewn-up bundles of poems, or the piles of paintings Theo van Gogh inherited after his brothers premature demise? Samuel Steward may never have imagined it, but his erotic history raises the question. A talented writer who early attracted the attention of Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder, he found his career blocked by a determination (so different from hers and his) to write candidly about his homosexuality . . . Steward was an obsessive record keeper, and his journals and his ‘Stud File of thousands of encounters allow [Justin Spring] to create a remarkably full portrait of a man whose life was what Edmund Whites might have been had White been born three decades earlier . . . [This] extensive documentation—and the miraculous rescue of that documentation, recounted in the books preface—left his biographer material to reconstruct an emblematic homosexual life.” —Benjamin Moser, Harpers
“Justin Springs jaw-dropping Secret Historian reads like a novel probing a lifelong rebels courage, creativity and ultimate sadness . . . Spring has reconstituted Steward, as Phil Andros might say, in flesh and blood and all sorts of bodily fluids.” —David DArcy, San Francisco Chronicle
“This is a rich and exuberant biography of a man who deserves to be better known” —The Economist
“A fascinating biography . . . [Steward] tackled life with awe-inspiring abandon” —Details
“Life in the closet proves boisterous indeed in this biography of an iconic figure of the pre-Stonewall gay demimonde . . . Springs sympathetic and entertaining story of a life registers the limitations imposed on homosexuals by a repressive society, but also celebrates the creativity and daring with which Steward tested them.” —Publishers Weekly
“[A] provocative biography . . . Generous excerpts from Stewards journals and unpublished memoirs fortify an already comprehensive examination of a life lived with unabashed independence and homoerotic expression during the sexual rebellion of the pre-Stonewall era . . . A vivid, candid portrait.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Justin Spring documents the extraordinary life of one of Kinseys crucial gay witnesses, and reading Secret Historian is like reading Kinsey dramatized. A cultivated, rather shy professor of English literature, Sam Steward dropped out in midlife to become an eminent tattooist and writer of S&M porn. As the story of a sex-obsessed recovering alcoholic later addicted to barbiturates and to masochistic thrills, this could easily have become a portrait of a failure. Instead, through Stewards copious records, we have a brave, fly-on-the-wall account of American homosexual subculture and persecution.” —Martin Stannard, author of Evelyn Waugh and Muriel Spark: The Biography
“A true page-turner—and a memorable act of historical reclamation. Sammy Steward is all but unknown except by a handful of historians, but Justin Springs lively biography—which is full of important new information about pre-Stonewall gay life—should put Sammy on the map, which is where he decidedly belongs.” —Martin Duberman, author of Cures: A Gay Mans Odyssey
“Secret Historian is a startlingly, unforgettably vivid glimpse into a life—and a world—that few of us can imagine.” —Terry Teachout, author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong
“Samuel Steward, secret sexual historian, is a secret no longer. From an evangelical Ohio boardinghouse to the gardens of the Villa Borghese, from the lobby of the City Opera to the South Side YMCA, Steward led—and recorded—an improbably revealing, representative life. Bedding Oscar Wildes Bosie, taking tea with Stein and Toklas, and confessing to (and performing for!) Dr. Kinsey, he seemed determined to leave no corner of twentieth-century American queer culture unexplored and undocumented. Justin Spring has rescued his story from a San Francisco attic and set it before twenty-first-century readers with unflagging patience, authority, and humanity—Secret Historian is a major achievement.” —Langdon Hammer, author of Hart Crane and Allen Tate
“Justin Spring has painstakingly and compassionately unearthed the labyrinthine world of a brilliant, multifaceted, and troubled creator. A classically educated and highly talented renegade intellectual, Stewards trajectory was impacted at every turn by his sexual compulsions. This bittersweet story, with its hair-raising and obsessively recorded details, is astonishing. Stewards humor, empathy, and refusal to bow to the repressive status quo are a moving testimonial to honesty, courage, and integrity. His story should resonate with anyone engaged in the ongoing struggle for personal freedom of identity.” —Ed Hardy
“This is a rare and important book. Secret Historian is a genuinely captivating combination of clear writing, a clean conscience, and more dirty stories than I ever imagined one life could hold.” —Debby Applegate, author of The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher
Drawn from the secret, never-before-seen diaries, journals, and sexual records of the novelist, poet, and university professor Samuel M. Steward, Secret Historian is a sensational reconstruction of one of the more extraordinary hidden lives of the twentieth century. An intimate friend of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Thornton Wilder, Steward maintained a secret sex life from childhood on, and documented these experiences in brilliantly vivid (and often very funny) detail.
After leaving the world of academe to become Phil Sparrow, a tattoo artist on Chicagos notorious South State Street, Steward worked closely with Alfred Kinsey on his landmark sex research. During the early 1960s, Steward changed his name and identity once again, this time to write exceptionally literate, upbeat pro-homosexual pornography under the name of Phil Andros.
Until today he has been known only as Phil Sparrow—but an extraordinary archive of his papers, lost since his death in 1993, has provided Justin Spring with the material for an exceptionally compassionate and brilliantly illuminating life-and-times biography. More than merely the story of one remarkable man, Secret Historian is a moving portrait of homosexual life long before Stonewall and gay liberation.Secret Historian is a 2010 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction.
Essays by Sam Steward, originally published under the name Philip Sparrow, and now edited for republication by Jeremy Mulderig.
and#160;and#160; Samuel Stewardandrsquo;s life spanned most of the 20th century (1909-1993).and#160; He was an English professor (at DePaul University), a tattoo artist (the Hellandrsquo;s Angels were a prime client), and writer of erotic fiction whose place in gay history has been established by Justin Springandrsquo;s award-winning biography, Secret History (FSG, 2010).and#160; Muldergiandrsquo;s edition of Stewardandrsquo;s essays now gives us Steward in his own words in a way that Springandrsquo;s biography could only gesture at.and#160; We have here a singular collection of witty, charming, and erudite essays in the tradition of Montaigne and Bacon, examining the world at large and Stewardandrsquo;s and the readerandrsquo;s place in it that bring the persona Philip Sparrow to life while reflecting Stewardandrsquo;s own expansive knowledge of literature, history, music, art, philosophy, and contemporary events (not to mention Chicago people and places).and#160; Mulderig supplies consistently smart and informative headnotes to each of the 30 essays that speak to general readers on a wide range of topicsandmdash;including cryptography, espionage, psychiatry, opera, pet cemeteries, bodybuilding, keepsakes, medieval recipes, Gertrude Stein, Chicago, Paris, and the Womenandrsquo;s Christian Temperance Union.and#160; That they were originally published in the Illinois Dental Journal (from 1944 to 1949) is notable in itself, for the obscurity of the source as well as the novelty of a venue that would compel its author to create a persona.and#160; Under the guise of andldquo;Philip Sparrowandrdquo; he could say things the he might otherwise have written under his own name. Steward later published material in a Swiss gay magazine and erotica for Danish gay magazines and, in the 1980s, for The Advocate. The collection is a significant life document and will appeal to general readers and students across a spectrum of GLBT studies, Chicago literature, American Studies, and go directly to passionate fans of this cult author, an audience that was born in 2010 with Springandrsquo;s biography.
About the Author
Samuel Steward taught at both Loyola University and DePaul University in Chicago and ran a famous tattoo parlor on the cityandrsquo;s south side. His books include Dear Sammy: Letters from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Bad Boys and Tough Tattoos, and the Phil Andros series of erotic novels. Jeremy Mulderig is Vincent de Paul Associate Professor of English, Emeritus, at DePaul University in Chicago.
Table of Contents
Sources Cited by Short Title
Introduction: Reading Samuel Stewardandrsquo;s Lost Essays, 1944andndash;49
1and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; The Victimandrsquo;s Viewpoint: On Sublimated Sadism; or, the Dentist as Iago (January 1944)
2and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Cryptography (October 1944)
3and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Alcoholics Anonymous (November 1944)
4and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Fifteen Years of Lent (January 1945)
5and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Soldiers and Civilians (February 1945)
6and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On How to Cook a Wolf (March 1945)
7and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On How to Be a Spy (April 1945)
8and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Psychiatry (May 1945)
9and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Balletomania (June 1945)
10and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Books from Prison (September 1945)
11and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Cemeteries (Octoberandndash;November 1945)
12and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On a Call to Paris (March 1946)
13and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On the Importance of Dying Young (April 1946)
14and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Chicago (August 1946)
15and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Operas and Operating (December 1946)
16and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Men and Their Feathers (January 1947)
17and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Gertrude Stein (February 1947)
18and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Little White Ribbons (March 1947)
19and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Being Musclebound (April 1947)
20and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Teaching (November 1947)
21and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Fabulous, Fabulous Fieldandrsquo;s (January 1948)
22and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Fair, Fantastic Paris (April 1948)
23and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Ulysses, Grown Old (May 1948)
24and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On the Comic Spirit (June 1948)
25and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Keepsakes, Gew-Gaws, and Baubles (September 1948)
26and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; [On Mohammed Zenouhin] (October 1948)
27and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On the Dream, the Illusion (December 1948)
28and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Time-Saving Devices (February 1949)
29and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; On Getting to Be Forty (May 1949)
30and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; A Modest Proposal (July 1949)
Appendix 1: Essays in the Illinois Dental Journal by Philip Sparrow
Appendix 2: Book-Review Articles in the Illinois Dental Journal by Samuel Steward