A traditional Han Chinese bridal sedan chair, which would carry a bride to her wedding. The journey in the chair is meant to represent the bride’s transition from one family to another. Photographed by Englishman Thomas Child in the 1870s or 1880s.

“Homosexuality Is ... Nothing To Be Ashamed Of” Said Freud

Freud was wrong about almost everything. But he had a couple redeeming qualities, among them that he did not consider homosexuality an illness or something to be eradicated. Which was extremely ahead of his time. In 1935, psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud was contacted by a worried mother. She was seeking treatment for her son, who was apparently gay. Freud believed that all humans are attracted to both sexes in some capacity. So he responded with the following letter of advice:

Dear Mrs [Erased], I gather from your letter that your son is a homosexual. I am most impressed by the fact that you do not mention this term yourself in your information about him. May I question you why you avoid it? Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them. (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime – and a cruelty, too. If you do not believe me, read the books of Havelock Ellis.

By asking me if I can help, you mean, I suppose, if I can abolish homosexuality and make normal heterosexuality take its place. The answer is, in a general way we cannot promise to achieve it. In a certain number of cases we succeed in developing the blighted germs of heterosexual tendencies, which are present in every homosexual in the majority of cases it is no more possible. It is a question of the quality and the age of the individual. The result of treatment cannot be predicted.

What analysis can do for your son runs on a different line. If he is unhappy, neurotic, torn by conflicts, inhibited in his social life, analysis may bring him harmony, peace of mind, full efficiency, whether he remains a homosexual or gets changed. If you make up your mind he should have analysis with me — I don't expect you will — he has to come over to Vienna. I have no intention of leaving here. However, don't neglect to give me your answer.

Sincerely yours with best wishes,


When it was built in 1897, the US Library of Congress was the largest and the most expensive library building in the world.

"To read good books is like holding a conversation with the most eminent minds of past centuries and, moreover, a studied conversation in which these authors reveal to us only the best of their thoughts."

René Descartes, Discourse on the Method, 1637

The Secret Catholic Queen

Anne of Denmark, wife of James VI and I of Scotland and England, was a renowned beauty who gave her (famously unfaithful) husband three children. She was also a secret Catholic. Her husband was a great Reformist, aka a Protestant, whose Catholic subjects frequently plotted against. Anne's background was also Protestant; her grandfather had heard Martin Luther speak, and made Denmark and Norway officially Lutheran. Yet despite all this, Queen Anne had decided Catholic sympathies.

While it is unknown if she officially converted -- if she did, it was of course a secret -- Queen Anne had gathered about her an enclave of intimate Roman Catholic bedchamber attendants. Among their number was Jane Drummond who facilitated the queen’s private Catholic worship. This included smuggling priests into court and disguising them as her personal attendants. The Spanish ambassador reported that “Mass was being said by a Scottish priest, who was simply called a ‘servant’ of [the queen’s] lady-in-waiting, Lady Drummond.”

New Discoveries About the Origin of the World

L'Origine du Monde, an 1866 painting by French artist Gustave Courbet, has been controversial since it debuted. To be blunt, it depicts a nude woman's private parts and torso. Even today the painting is considered risque. Facebook recently shut down a French teacher's account when they posted a picture of the painting. Which is why this post does not contain it -- you'll have to go to the linked article to see.

The reason L'Origine du Monde is in the news now? The woman it depicts may have been identified. Or re-discovered, to be more accurate. Constance Queniaux had retired as a ballet dancer at the Paris Opera in 1859. She was known at the time to be the mistress of Turkish-Egyptian diplomat Halil Sherif Pasha. The man who commissioned Courbet's painting. But all this has been known for a long time, it is not news.

But further evidence recently turned up in letters between the writer George Sand and the son of writer Alexandre Dumas. Of all things. You'll have to go to the article to get the specific wording, but basically, Dumas was gently criticizing the painting and in the process, he delicately alluded to Ms. Queniaux's privates. Dumas therefore had seen the painting, and believed for whatever reason that it was of Constance Queniaux.

That's not the only new evidence. When Ms. Queniaux died in 1908, she bequeathed a painting by Courbet of a bouquet of spring flowers and red and white camellias. Camellias were the flowers most closely identified with courtesans. And they would have made sense, if a painting for Ms. Queniaux was commissioned from Courbet by his Ottoman patron, to have painted those specific flowers. It all goes together neatly.

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    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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