Henry Havelock Ellis (1859-1939)

Henry Havelock Ellis (1859-1939) began the study of medicine in 1880, after he had been influenced by the mystical vitalist notions aired in James Hinton’s Life in Nature. It was this spiritual interest in the forces of life, rather than any great ability as a doctor, that was to prove the key to his career. After a very brief period in which he practised midwifery, Ellis began to formulate the project of a comprehensive study of the nature of sexuality. This bore fruit in a joint undertaking, originally begun with John Addington Symonds in 1892, and titled Sexual Inversion, which was first published in German in 1896, but later to become the second volume of Studies in the Psychology of Sex (1897-1910). After Symonds’ death in 1893, Ellis continued working alone, but when Sexual Inversion was published in England in 1897 it was effectively suppressed due to the controversy surrounding the arrest of suspected anarchist, George Bedborough, for selling a copy of the work. However Studies in the Psychology of Sex eventually found a readership in England and America and went through many editions. Amongst his many innovations, Ellis's work was one of the first scientific books to remove the pathological stigma that was conventionally attached to homosexuality, and the coining of the term 'auto-eroticism'. Ellis was also active more widely in the field of literature and letters, editing the Mermaid re-edition of the works of Christopher Marlowe, as well as Ibsen's work in English and translating Lombroso's Man of Genius in 1891. Other works include The Erotic Rights of Women (1918); The Dance of Life (1923) and My Life: Autobiography of Havelock Ellis (1939, posthumous).