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three pairs of lovers with space


The following are all the passages of Greek love interest in English journalist and boy-lover
Michael Davidson (1897-1976)’s autobiography,
The World, the Flesh and Myself (1962) concerning his time in London between his flight from National Socialist Berlin in 1933 until the disaster recounted led him to leave England for Morocco in 1937.


After fleeing National Socialist Germany in July 1933, Davidson resumed living in London for four years. …

My behaviour, in these years, was disastrous, and leading me—obviously, had I paused to look— straight to my 'first row'. I was drinking more than usual;[1] and with more than usual frenzy was chasing 'romance': …. I had no beloved, though many delusions of love—'in each of them I saw the sign of the one I was waiting for', wrote Carlo Coccioli in his extraordinary novel of Florence and Paris, 'The Eye and the Heart'. That is the impulsion, the motive power, of the prowling paederast—the unending search for the 'divine friend, much desired'. One tried to look, always, beyond the brevity of pleasure.

The 'row' came towards the end of 1936; …

In the middle of 1936 I was living in a mean room off the Camden Road. Here I was 'mothering' a boy called Ray, a truant from home or perhaps reformatory: a touching psychopathic creature who lied and stole and wetted the bed in which he lay until it was time to go to the 'pictures'; but whose nature was so loaded with pathos and need for affection that one was filled with fondness and compassion. Plenty of food cured the bed-wetting; but no amount of coddling could cure anything else; and one day he walked out, taking what little I had—luckily it was a day I'd taken my typewriter out.

Then I had a pleasant Islington friend who came to see me now and then, improbably named Bill Jones; but an insatiable curiosity and the unsatisfied search drove me on beyond the bounds of caution and I became 'known' in the louche environs of the old Collins' Musical Hall; had I had the sense to interpret one or two signs, I might have realized that. Bill liked practising on my typewriter; and meeting me one Saturday evening in Upper Street, proposed that we go to my room. This meant taking two buses, and then a short walk; and it wasn't until, as I was unlocking the front-door and a voice said tersely 'Just a minute', that I had a notion we had been followed. Bill was asked his name. 'Bill Jones', he said. 'Now, don't try and come that on me', retorted the detective knowingly, ‘I wasn't born yesterday. Come on, what's your name?' Here I put in: 'But it is Bill Jones—I assure you it's Bill Jones.' And thus the conversation continued for some minutes: the one part of that sickening evening that I can remember clearly, and still makes me laugh. But after that, 'accompanying' him to a police station, and later, I was too shocked to notice much: the unspeakable, the unthinkable, had happened—I had been arrested. I remember being searched, and their taking my keys: the long wait in some lavatory-tiled police-station while they took a 'statement' from poor Bill; I remember being finger-printed and charged—to this day I don't know the wording of the charge. I remember the blessed moment when they said I could have bail —whom would I like them to ring up? And then Charles Ashleigh came, taking it in his stride; and went bail for me and took me to his flat for a drink. Charles's friendship stood that test as few others' would.

There was a week's remand; I had a week to think in. My principal task, plainly, was to save my mother the unbearable sadness of learning what had happened; I had to invent a falsehood plausible enough to convince her. My mother knew of my communist doings and connections with Germany: I wrote to my brother asking him, should I go to prison, to tell her I'd been sent on a mission abroad so secret that no word of it could be breathed and that would keep me perdu for as many weeks or months as I 'got'. Again, I discovered how good people can be: where one awaits odium, or at least incomprehension, one finds so often kindness. Like Charles, my brother Eardley was generous and understanding; he didn't upbraid me, but said he would pay my lawyers' bill; and agreed with my fiction for our mother. When I came out of prison, he was again kindness itself, helping financially and in other precious ways; I was still shy of him, he was still the big brother; but I saw that he was a much nicer person than I had believed as a small boy, and a far better one than I could ever be.

My solicitor advised me to plead guilty; poor Bill's 'statement', he said, was conclusive; It was a 'first offence', and if I made things easy by refraining from denying what plainly was true, I would almost certainly get probation. He had briefed a nice young man called Mallalieu—the same, I suppose, who later became a Member of Parliament; he would say all that could be thought up in favour of leniency. Of course I agreed to plead guilty: in any case, as I knew that whatever Bill had said in his statement would be no more than the truth, I knew too that nothing would induce me to surrender the boy to the degradation of sustaining it in the box. So, the next Monday morning I put a toothbrush and razor and a Left Book Club copy of John Strachey's 'Theory and Practice of Socialism' into a satchel and caught a bus for North London Police Court.

It's difficult to unravel one's emotions in a situation so utterly revolutionary as that of being the centrepiece of the Dock—revolutionary because it turns topsy-turvy everything in life one has always taken for granted. Humiliation, of course: centuries of procedural refinement have made the dock in a British criminal court the perfect fount of mortification; while you're in it, innocent or guilty, you're a contemptible worm and you know it—no matter how kindly the Judge or 'helpful' the police; bitterness with myself, I felt, for being so stupid—for allowing this to happen; dread, I suppose, of the unknown degradations and discomforts that perhaps lay ahead; but certainly a lively and enjoyable interest in what was going on and what was yet to come. I've always welcomed fresh experience, even unpleasant: human, emotional experience, that is, not technical, like flying to the moon. And I knew that if I were gaoled nothing would ever be the same again—the whole future would be coloured, or stained, by that.

I've always considered that most of the sexual actions one's nature drives one unreasonably to perform are too silly for words. Why, I ask, does one want to do such pointless things? Yet at the moment, nothing in life seems so important. When these things are publicly described in the nerveless tones of a dusty solicitor from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and publicly ascribed to oneself, sitting in the dock under the public's goggling eye, they make one feel not only an imbecile but also a monster; in his mouth things which seemed to one perfectly natural become horribly deformed. And that, evidently, is what's intended.

A detective testified to the shabbiness of my room and my apparent poverty; Mallalieu excellently did his best to make bricks without straw; and the magistrate gave me four months with hard labour.[2] He added, in the tones of a headmaster announcing some special benefaction, that in prison I should receive 'psychological treatment'. My lawyer told me, after I 'came out', that he believed it was the squalid description of my lodging that decided the beak to send me to prison; had I seemed respectably prosperous I would probably, for the first offence, have been put on probation. Perhaps that could have been true in 1936; perhaps it can still be true today.

I don't remember the stipendiary's delivering one of those speeches that one sees reported in the News of the World; in which the occupant of the Bench improves upon the law by filling it out with his personal indignation and his own moral views. A year or so ago I saw in a newspaper this paragraph:

Passing sentence on ——, Mr Justice Stable commented: 'The man who kills does no more than shorten a human life. But a man who corrupts a young lad or girl destroys one—and that is worse.'

Assuming that this means anything at all, and leaving out of account the Judge's apparent desire to reverse the acts of parliament which makes 'shortening a human life' the worse crime of the two, this pronouncement seems to jump straight back to the heresy-hatred of the Inquisition. It is almost a paraphrase of this passage from Bernard Wall's 'Report on the Vatican':

This was the well-known apologia of the Spanish Inquisitors who argued that a   murderer only murdered people's bodies whereas a heretic murdered their sou1s.

It seems likely that remarks like this are prompted more by hatred and fear of heresy than by a heart sorrowing for the countless innocent souls waiting to be corrupted. Sexual heresy must seem to the unswervingly loyal member of the sexual Establishment like an affront to his most recondite and 'sacred' sentiments; and at the present time particularly, when the public has suddenly become aware for the first time how widespread and various these heresies are, he must feel that they constitute a positive danger to the rightness of his sexual simplicity. This is why, I suppose, a greater sanctity than ever seems to be given nowadays to the word 'innocence'—both by those whose blood boils when they hear of its being corrupted, and by the others who confuse childhood with the first snowdrops of spring.

'As innocent as a new-laid egg', said Samuel Butler somewhere; and that's nearer the mark than the usual comparison—the newborn babe's innocence lasts as long as its elders can artificially and unnaturally keep it swaddled, and often not nearly so long as the elders suppose: the young creature's own bodily senses and instincts will sooner rather than later 'corrupt' it.

Sexual 'innocence', as ordinarily understood, is manifestly unnatural—true innocence, I suppose, is the natural progression of knowledge and experience with the creature's growth and understanding. But 'purity' artificially maintained by prohibition and insulation against knowledge is really a disciplinary device invented by adults: and can, I'm fairly convinced from observation of its opposite, be a contributor to England's psychological chaos. In Southern Italy 'purity' doesn't exist and isn't expected; a child by the time it can walk is 'corrupt'. The boys unfailingly begin to masturbate in public from the age of six, and continue to do so, with only token attempts at concealment, until they are old enough to be admitted to the brothel or have found a girl whose maidenhead hasn't been as uncompromisingly preserved as her sisters'. Masturbation for the boys (I can't speak for the girls, whose virginity, though not 'innocence', is jealously kept intact by tradition for marriage) is regarded as a normal and sensible accompaniment to the boyish phase of their development—a matter of course, not calling for comment. In England, of course, it's almost as prevalent, but furtive and shameful and guilt-loaded.

And there is the point. This youthful 'corruption' perhaps has interesting social consequences. In south Italy one rarely hears of the sexual murder of children, of brutal attacks on women by adolescent boys, of young girls being raped, of the explosive lusts of the psychotic or the psychopath. Of course there are murders; but they are 'healthy' Mediterranean murders, acts of vengeance or jealousy; and almost to a man these 'corrupt' boys grow into excellent husbands and devoted fathers of seven or eight children. Divorce is practically impossible for the Catholic poor; but there doesn't seem much desire for divorce. There is some homosexuality in the cities, but compared with northern Europe it's insignificant; and though almost any youth is ready for a homosexual frolic or even friendship, that bent doesn't go beneath the surface of his nature—below he is firmly orthodox. I'd say that the Italians are the most 'normal' and sexually healthy of any people—for all the versatility of their concupiscence in youth.

Isn't it likely that this is because from childhood their sexual behaviour is allowed to develop naturally, in time with their own growth, as a puppy's does?

Locked in a cell like a hard-class couchette, I found they'd taken away my matches; I couldn't smoke till they brought a mug of tea and gave me a light. Then, to keep smoking, I remember lighting one fresh cigarette after another from the stub of the last—smoking seemed the final contact with the familiar, with the real: like the feel of one's mother's dress when going away to school for the first time. It was mid afternoon before I was unlocked and taken out to the Black Maria.

A British Black Maria of the 1930s

People who haven't ridden in a Black Maria may think it's as good a way of getting about as any other; I think it's the most terrible that man's invented for the humiliation of men. It contains along each side a row of tiny steel cellules each constructed to receive and hold the human form in a sitting position. Into this canister one is locked; the tantalizing ventilation holes at eye-level are just too small to let one distinguish anything outside when one tries to peer through. The thing jolts and jerks, comes to a stop, moves on: you don't know where you are, where you're going, how long you'll be immured. The claustral pressure of this steel confinement becomes like pillows smothering your mind—you want to scream: but what will screaming do? And suddenly you know that very soon you'll unbearably want to pee. . . . A prison cell is a bower of bliss after two hours in the Black Maria—there you can walk about, fling out your arms, dance if you want to: your will has still some room to range in; in the wheeled safe-deposit it has none. This frightful vehicle, this mobile filing cabinet for samples of human degradation, is obviously unnecessary and quite uneconomic; prisoners, meek and unnerved most of them, could just as well be carted about London in a van, like human beings—and there were always handcuffs; there is no need to start their prison life by burying them alive.

After an hour or so, it stopped and we were unlocked; but we hadn't got there yet. This was a kind of prisoners' clearing-house, or 'lay-by' (what words and signs our English roads are being defiled by!); a herd of us was locked into a big cell with a steel-barred gate and left for an hour or so. Then, those of us bound for 'the Scrubs' were inserted into another Black Maria; it was late evening when at last we arrived: I was drained of all spirit by then, and can remember little of 'Reception'. One had a bath; and was marched naked in to the doctor. 'Have you had syphilis?' asked this cold, cursory young man. And then my blessed cell, my home for the next 90-odd days and refuge from the vast grey clanging ugliness outside it.

As I had 'hard labour' I slept in my blankets on bare boards; after two weeks of that I got a mattress. This fortnight of sleeping hard was the symbolic residue of Hard Labour—in practice this old-fashioned penance had vanished, like the treadmill, from the prison rule.

This was the end of October 1936; I would be 'out' by the beginning of February. If one avoided trouble and thus 'earned' full remission, one quarter of one's sentence was pinched off, like the head of a prawn. So I had three months to do; I'd made up my mind to be carefully submissive to the prison rules and to the whims and foibles of the screws whose single uncorroborated word could spell one's doom. Only the 'burnt-out cases' (Graham Greene's leper term seems to fit so well) walk with their eyes open into trouble in the nick—those men so embittered and hardened by familiarity with its grinding evil that the protest of noisy contumacy has become a need, though it hurts nobody but themse1ves. But it was sadly easy to make a mistake (like failing to fold the blankets just as the screw wanted); and harrowing to know that some pathetic mental deficient was being 'done' because he couldn't understand, or to foresee the fate of the poor fellow who, his mind cracking one evening in his cell, 'smashes up'.

The impressions that have principally remained with me are the unvarying physical cold of the place—I used to think that even in summer it must be cold in the Scrubs; the studiedly inhuman intention of it— everything in the routine, everything that met the eye and ear (and nose), had been lovingly devised, I felt, to humiliate and dismay; and the shocking number of near-lunatics who'd been sent there—drooling, dribbling wretches who had fouled the Law because, I suppose, they couldn't cope, or couldn't comprehend; or simply happened to be handy when somebody had to be picked up. One such, I remember, mumbled to me in the Brush Shop that he didn't know at all why he was in the nick. I wonder whether magistrates still send droves of mental deficients to prison?

One's clothes were the first vehicle of humiliation one noticed: these sad grey garments seemed designed to make the biggest fool possible of one's appearance—trouser reaching half-way down the calf or bunching over one's ankles; a little boy's coat that made an ass of one's backside or one so big that it slumped off the shoulders; one had either, one felt, grown out of them or shrunk inside them. As for the bare necessities of the toilet—a second-hand razor-blade, used with cold water, left one permanently stubbled; and, being deprived of one's nail-scissors, the horrid hairs of one's nose grew long and repulsive and one's nails were cut with tailor's shears under the eye of a screw. There was the early morning procession to the fetid 'recess', an open bog used by about 50 people, carrying grotesquely ones jerry containing the stinking excretions of the night—which, multiplied by 50, made a considerable hum; the incessant yelling of the screws—'GET BACK inside', when, parading after 'unlocking' in the doorways of our cells, one of us seemed to overstep his threshold; the peering eye through one's door's spy-hole; the careful marshalling of metallic prison noise—the clanging of steel doors, the jangling of keys, crashing of locks and bolts, grating of warders' boots on the iron 'landing', the wiry lashing of the screws' shouts: it was like living in a boiler-makers' shop; the taunt of being 'taken' wherever the whims of the routine sent one by a bum-bailiff with jangling keys.

I suppose some prison-officers (it's odd there are no 'other ranks'), off duty, are ordinary men with gentle feelings; but I found no sign of human sympathy in the screws I had to do with (except, perhaps, the nodding old 'instructors' in the Brush Shop); the worst were the young—the strutting, yelling fellows with the minds of Storm Troopers. I saw no bodily violence, though I heard the sound of it once or twice coming from some poor chap's cell; but mental violence was part of the routine. I suppose the men and women who consent to this ignoble life are to be pitied—they too are victims of the prison system; but I've always thought that one who from preference joins a police or prison service must belong to that lowest human caste, which can include cabinet ministers and school bullies—those who enjoy holding power over their fellows.

Meals were thrust through a trap. I enjoyed the breakfast porridge and bread and the cheese at supper— prison bread seemed as good as any I've eaten; and the pint of greasy cocoa brought a special comfort. But the midday mix-up in a tin can was so nauseating that I didn't learn to eat it in three months. I don't know how much, or little, truth there was in the universally held belief that some sort of chloral substance was mixed into the cocoa to halt the stirrings of venereal desires. I know that in prison I lost almost all sexual interest—even the distant sight of the short-trousered captives from A-Hall, the 'boys' prison', being marched about didn't quicken my heart much; though now and then, in my cell, or day-dreaming in the Brush Shop, I would invoke, as a relaxation (like going to the pictures), a douce salacious reverie. I put this mental emasculation down to the numbing of the body by the cold, and still more to the deadening of every segment of the spirit by the harsh metallic ugliness of everything and the shared sadness of this huge repository of suffering.

Wormwood Scrubs prison

I had one visit of about 30 seconds from a dim Anglican chaplain; he didn't come again; and after a couple of months a Prison Visitor turned up—a nice, colourless man with a clerk's moustache who didn't know what to say. Obviously he must have been impelled into this voluntary work by great kindliness and noble intention, but hadn't the knack of imparting it; he did tell me cautiously about the Abdication,[3] about which I knew nothing. 'I'm not allowed, you know, to tell you what's happening "outside"; he said apologetically. (Prison Visitors, of course, do sometimes achieve great and positive good; as I have seen in the splendid work of a great friend of mine. But he is a humanist, a psychologist and a leading writer on penology.)

After the first month I was allowed books from the library. But I wasn't allowed to choose the books; a random couple was dumped in my cell while I was out awkwardly constructing boot-brushes out of bristles and bits of wire. I read them all avidly; but can remember only one: a life of the Duke of Wellington: and thinking what an odd place this was to read it in. Then I asked for leave to have in my cell Strachey's book on Socialism, which, then reposing in my 'property', I had brought because it was long and was the sort that could be read several times. I had to make an 'application' to be taken before the Governor; then was paraded like a defaulter outside the Governor's office; then was ceremonially marched in and told to stand abjectly at attention; then I made my solemn request. I was rather surprised that it was granted; I'd thought that a book so frankly 'political', and near-communist, would be on the prison index.

I must have done about half my sentence before the promised 'psychological treatment' made its sudden appearance. One evening I was abruptly 'unlocked'—anything out-of-routine happened abruptly and capriciously, like air-raids—and marched silently across the dark prison; as usual I wasn't told where I was going. And then, for the first time, I found myself alone with a human being—a person who treated me as a human being. He was a young psychologist, and charming; I was sorry I had with him so few talks. The upshot of my treatment, really, was that he urged me to raise, so to speak, my 'age of consent'; couldn't I, he asked in effect, persuade myself to be attracted by people much older—above the age, at least, of 18? The risk then, he pointed out, would be less. This wasn't, I imagine, what the magistrate had in mind.

There were 'classes'—voluntary classes for the illiterates, classes in book-keeping and so on. As a diversion, I enrolled for the geography class; and one or two evenings a week was marched to a room where for an hour we sat on benches while a kindly elementary school teacher showed us maps, which I always like looking at. On Sundays we 'C. of E.s' were marched to the prison chapel for Matins, while the 'R.C.s', Jews, Methodists and so on were marched in grey groups elsewhere. We sat in sorry, grey shambling rows; round us screws were posted to see that there were no breaches of the regulations, while behind us the door was locked—it must have been a very Christian spectacle for the man in the pulpit. Now and then on a Sunday afternoon we would be marched back to the chapel to listen to some well-intentioned person come to play us 'pieces' on the piano or sing us songs like 'Roses of Picardy'. I found these occasions humiliating; I don't know why it is that so often charitable benevolence seems insulting. Once a week we in the Brush Shop were marched to the bathhouse for a hot bath and the issue of 'clean' underclothes. The luxury of the hot wallow generally had to be paid for in pain afterwards: reasonably, one was required to clean the bath; but what looked clean to oneself was rarely clean enough for the inspecting screw—over and over again one was compelled to rub and wipe and scrub, without any sort of detergent, to remove soap marks which he violently insisted were still there.

I've written the word 'clean' in inverted commas, because the underclothes weren't always clean. Once, I discovered that I was possessed of the sort of lice known as 'crabs'—which, having been in the nick for over a month, I couldn't have brought from outside; a 'clean' pair of drawers must have harboured them. I knew that to 'report sick' with a minor ailment was almost a delinquency; to report that one had 'caught crabs', no matter where from, couldn't bring less, I thought, than loss of remission. So I said nothing; and for about a week, squeezed in a corner of my cell out of range of the peep-hole, I sedulously shaved with my blunt razor, scraping myself sore. By a miracle it worked; and the nightmare was out-rooted. That was a thing that could, and did, happen in prison in 1936.

Each morning, between breakfast and 'work', we were hustled down the clanging iron turret stairs for 'exercise; counted at the door into the yard (we were always being counted) and set in single-file motion round and round the concreted ring that was our daily treadmill. I ought to have looked forward to this morning constitutional, breathing God's air beneath the open sky; but I dreaded it. If it was raining we wore little grey tippets round our shoulders that made us look sillier still; but against the cold we had nothing. Our clothes had no pockets, and to get some warmth into my aching hands I would improvise a muff by tucking each into the other's sleeve; but our guardian screws, snug in their overcoats, instantly yelled: 'GET those hands free!'

In those days there was no talking for prisoners called short-term, no 'association'—by the rules, I was supposed not to utter a word for three months except when addressing a screw; and at exercise we were strung out in single-file, so many paces between each. Sometimes, of course, sidelong remarks were exchanged, gangster-film fashion; but it was a dangerous pleasure, if pleasure it was. I've seen few more melancholy sights than this trailing circle of grotesque grey figures, plodding round and round in mute, meaningless gyration; the grey silence punctured by the screws' scolding; even the few brave winter flowers planted in tidy institutional beds seeming tainted by the great grey sadness. And yet I found the fantastic pattern of this social sadism fascinating. I've always had a god-sent capacity for being interested in, and therefore in a sense enjoying, mental and moral pain; and in the Scrubs I was interested all the time—in my own sensations, in the methods and techniques of punition, and especially in the punished and their punishers. It was an experience I've always been thankful for: a privileged view—like getting a ticket to the 'secret room' of Naples Museum—of social cruelty restricted to far too narrow a segment of society. It made me, I think, a humbler and nicer person, and was therefore morally salutary—though not in the way intended by my betters who sent me there. In Erewhon, no doubt, all the wilfully respectable, the smugly affluent, the safely conformist, would have been given a sharp three months as a matter of course; I believe human nature would be more humane if everybody, as a kind of moral inoculation under the National Health, were sent to prison for a spell—but at a time of life after the callousness of youth has softened and before the ageing arteries of sympathy have hardened.

Profile of Davidson from the files of the Security Services, apparently 1933

If the purpose of prison is to make prisoners vow they'll not come back again, it succeeds; but it does nothing to deter people from repeating the acts that sent them there. One goes out merely determined to be more careful in future about being 'caught'. Society gets the prison-population it deserves, as at gets the politicians it deserves. About one-third, I'd say, of the men I saw in the Scrubs 26 years ago needn't have been there at all—their fault was not one of character but of social circumstances; another third oughtn't to have been there—they should have been in hospital; the remainder, perhaps, presented a social problem. To this problem our great-grandfathers had an answer in transportation. I would have a kind of Pitcairn Island for society's undesirables—perhaps some of those remote tracts now being used for blowing off bombs; and pack them off with their wives or sweethearts and an adequate grant of money to find their own salvation there. But I'd keep one big prison going for a class of criminal for whom society, because itself a principal offender, has defined no crime: the intellectually dishonest and the morally dishonourable—the people whose financial and social rectitude is impeccable but whose mind is a liar and moral facade a fraud: the hypocrites and jockeyers of public ignorance, the purveyors of commercial and political sham and the falsifiers, for factional gain or private aggrandizement, of the truth. This is the sin that cries aloud to Heaven for justice; and I'd hire those screws I knew in the Scrubs to shout at the sinners. That third of the population which, I've just said, 'needn't' have been there, included an alarming number of young men who, having a 'previous', had been 'done' for 'suspect'. This means that they'd been 'picked up' and charged with the crime of being a 'suspected person' by plain-clothes 'bogeys' who knew they had a previous conviction. I don't know if this wicked charge is still on the statute book; it enabled detectives to swear that a 'known' young fellow, perhaps harmlessly walking in the street, had been, say, trying motor-car doors: the 'previous', reinforcing the evidence of two policemen, was bound to get a conviction. A 'previous', if you sail close to the Law, follows you about for the rest of your life; mine has cropped up in various ways, once developing into my 'second row'.



WHEN I 'CAME OUT' early in 1937 I saw that earning a living was going to be difficult. Much earlier, I'd 'lapsed' from the Party;[4] now, I felt, my disgrace and their primness had blocked that source of translation work. From journalism, too, I thought, I must be barred. But my brother again was kind; one of his friends was Norman Collins, a best-selling novelist but not yet, obviously, a television tycoon. Collins was good enough to recommend me as a reader to a firm of printers; and diligently I read proofs for the next few months, 'clocking in' at 7 a.m. and being solemnly admitted to an aristocratic trade union called the Association of Correctors of the Press.[5] I took a flat in Kilburn, an excitingly squalid district well removed from Islington; and my poor mother (who, with sweet discretion, had welcomed me back from my 'secret mission') again gave me furniture.

Often, going home late at night, I took the tube from Piccadilly Circus, where the station roundabout and lavatory were notorious haunts of male prostitutes and plain-clothes bogeys. I was terrified of its dangers, and at that time hurried through it. One evening I was brusquely stopped by an obvious 'dick'. 'We know you,' he said; 'we're watching you.' I felt the same panic, the same sense of being pursued by hostile eyes, that I'd suffered years before at the Serpentine. Already my 'previous' had raised its head; I supposed this man must have been in court when I was convicted. I took this new horror to my brother; and begged him help me escape from the leering malevolence which suddenly England seemed to mean. His comprehension was unwavering; he arranged with my mother that against my inheritance I should have two pounds a week while, living abroad, I 'wrote' or found work as a translator.

Davidson’s next Greek love adventures are related in Michael Davidson’s Loves in French Morocco, 1937-40 and 1947.


[1] The Security Services’ file on Davidson (National Archives document KV 2/2976) includes a letter from the Foreign Service of the American embassy in London mentioning “a summons issued by the London Police, “E” Division, Grays Inn Road, for Michael Davidson to appear at the Clerkenwell Police Court, Kings Cross Road, on December 26, 1935, to answer a charge of drunkenness.”

[2] A file on Davidson kept by the Security Services  account of his communist sympathies (National Archives KV 2/2975/1/41) records that “on 25th November 1936, this man was sentenced to four months hard labour, having been convicted at North London Police Court as a male person importuning for immoral purposes.”

[3] The abdication of the King, Edward VIII, on 11 December.

[4] The Communist Party of Great Britain. As related elsewhere in this and the previous chapter, repelled by National Socialism, Davidson had become a communist in Germany, but never an ardent one. The Security Services’ file on him (National Archives document KV 2/2976) reveal that neither they nor the British Party itself took his communism very seriously.

[5] A file on Davidson kept by the Security Services  account of his communist sympathies (National Archives KV 2/2975/1/41) says of him at this time that “he was also said to have been giving French and German lessons to youths ranging from 12 to 16 years of age.”




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