BLOXAM, JOHN FRANCIS (1873-1928)

While an undergraduate at Exeter College, Oxford, Bloxam edited a magazine titled the Chameleon, as though to suggest the means of disguising its obvious homosexual orientation, Yet after its first number, with a printing of 100 copies in December 1894, the publishers Gay and Bird announced that it would not continue. Under the pseudonym of "X," Bloxam included his own story titled "The Priest and the Acolyte," depicting love between a priest and his young acolyte, both of whom, having drunk from a poisoned chalice in a suicide pact after their relationship is discovered by the priest's superior, die by embracing on the steps of the altar. Echoes from The Picture of Dorian Gray are evident, as in the priest's remark to his superior that "there are sins more beautiful than anything else in the world." Timothy d'Arch Smith writes that Bloxom's story "may perhaps be considered the first piece of English fiction to echo the firmly-founded French syndrome of the 'naughty' priest".

To the Chameleon, Alfred Douglas contributed a poem titled "Two Loves," which concludes with the most famous line in homoerotic literature: "I am the love that dare not speak its name." And Wilde, at Douglas's urging, contributed "Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young," which concludes with a line that he later used in An Ideal Husband: "To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance" (suggesting the homoerotic fable of Narcissus). When the Chameleon appeared, Wilde wrote to Ada Leverson:

"The Priest and the Acolyte" is not by Dorian [that is, John Gray]: though you were right in discerning by internal evidence that the author has a profile. He is an undergraduate of strange beauty. The story is, to my ears, too direct: there is no nuance: it profanes a little by revelation: God and other artists are always a little obscure. Still, it has interesting qualities, and is at moments poisonous: which is something.

Bloxam had met Wilde in George Ives's rooms in the Albany, at which time he showed his story to Wilde, who urged him to publish it. In Act II of The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde facetiously includes a remark by Jack Worthing, who has rented his Belgrave Square house to a Lady Bloxham (slightly altering Bloxam's name), who never appears in the play: "She is a lady considerably advanced in years" - to which Lady Bracknell responds: "Ah, nowadays that is no guarantee of respectability of character."

In his libel suit against the Marquess of Queensberry, Wilde was cited in Queensberry's "plea of justification" as one who had joined in publishing the magazine. Though a contributor to the magazine, he denied that he had a hand in its publication. Furthermore, he testified - inaccurately - that he had not known of "The Priest and the Acolyte" until its appearance in the Chameleon. When asked for his opinion of the story, Wilde remarked (in a decided but understandable shift of opinion under the circumstances): "I thought it bad and indecent, and I strongly disapproved of it". Bloxam was never called as a witness in any of Wilde's trials.

After graduating from Exeter College a few weeks after Wilde's final trial, Bloxam went on to Ely Theological College, took orders in 1897-98 in the Church of England, and returned to Exeter for his MA in 1901. Following a series of curateships in London, he served as a chaplain in the First World War, and after his discharge, resumed his religious duties in London, becoming vicar in what J. Z. Eglinton calls the "desperate slum of Hoxton" between 1922 and 1927. He apparently did not publish anything after 1894.

References: H. Montgomery Hyde, The Trials of Oscar Wilde (2nd. ed., 1962; rpt. 1973); J. Z. Eglinton, "The Later Career of John Francis Bloxom," International Journal of Greek Love (Nov. 1966); Brian Reade, ed. Sexual Heretics: Male Homosexuality in English Literature from 1850 to 1900 (1970); Timothy d'Arch Smith, Love in Earnest: Some Notes on the Lives and Writings of English "Uranian " Poets from 1889 to 1930 (1970).