Many of the gay blogs I read feature pics of models and other attractive men either as part of the site’s main focus or as a periodic entry. (Clearly, it’s a good way to boost viewership.) I’ve been wanting to include a similar monthly feature since I started my blog. So, this month’s hottie is …
Sir Charles Sedley (1639-1701), one of Charles II’s courtiers. Sedley was one of the famous libertines in Charles’s court during the 1660s and early 1670s, but underwent a kind of political/sexual conversion in the mid-1670s. He subsequently settled down and became a relatively prominent and respected member of Parliament.
I chose him as my first hottie of the month for three reasons. First, just look at him in his portrait (by Sir Godfrey Kneller) above — he’s clearly hot! Second, I was terribly disturbed when I saw how the movie Stage Beauty, which I like very much, portrayed him. In that film, he’s shown as a fat fop rather than as the hot-to-trot libertine he clearly was. On the right is a picture of the movie’s version of Sedley, who is played by Richard Griffiths (who is great in The History Boys, btw). And finally, I chose Sedley for my first hottie because I love his work — I even have a chapter, which a review recently pointed to as especially good, about him and one of his plays, Antony and Cleopatra, in my first book.
Sedley is perhaps most famous (if he’s famous at all) for an incident that occurred in 1663. Samuel Pepys, among others, recounts that Sedley, while very drunk, came
in open day into the Balcone and showed his nakedness, — acting all the postures of lust and buggery that could be imagined, and abusing of scripture and as it were from thence preaching a mountebank sermon from the pulpit, saying that there he had to sell such a powder as should make all the cunts in town run after him — a thousand people standing underneath to see and hear him.
And that being done, he took a glass of wine and washed his prick in it and then drank it off; and then took another and drank the King’s health. (Diary 4.209)
Who wouldn’t want to see that?
He’s also known for his “love” poetry, most of which is more aptly described as libertine (i.e., seduction) poetry. You can find an example of one of his better poems, “Love Still Has Something of the Sea,” here.
But my favorite of his works is his tragedy Antony and Cleopatra, which has subsequently been overshadowed by John Dryden’s All for Love, which premiered a few months later. Sedley’s play is much better, in my opinion — you just have to read it in the right frame of mind, which is why everyone should read my chapter about it! It’s in heroic couplets, and who doesn’t love heroic couplets? And let’s face it: Dryden’s women are simply hysterical (and not in a good way). A few years ago, I had one of my students in a senior seminar read Antony and Cleopatra as part of his final research project in the class; he also liked it much better than All for Love. Needless to say, he got an “A” in the class!
So, Sir Charles Sedley is my first hottie of the month. Future hotties won’t all be men, but I will do my best to bring you the hottest men and women of the Restoration and Eighteenth Century.