Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ian Fleming - the classic heterosexual?

Ian Fleming (1908 -1964), grandson of the banker Robert Fleming, wrote the James Bond novels.

In Dr No Bond meets Honeychile Rider whose bottom is "almost as firm and rounded as a boy's".

What do we know about the real Ian Fleming?

The source for most of the following is the excellent Ian Fleming -The Man Behind James Bond by Andrew Lycett.


1. William Plomer's Turbott Wolfe was published in 1925.

In this novel, the homosexual Plomer tackled gay relationships.

The teenage Ian Fleming was so impressed by Turbot Wolfe that he wrote a fan letter to the author.

Ian and the gay William Plomer became very close friends. (Lycett)

2. Ian Fleming attended Eton, the all boys private school. Some poems he wrote there are signed with the 'sexually ambiguous name Cary Anan'. (Lycett)

3. After Eton, Ian Fleming studied in Austria.

He decided to translate the text of Anja and Esther, a play by Klaus Mann, the homosexual son of Thomas Mann, the author of Death in Venice . Anja and Esther was Ian's first publication. (Lycett)

Ian's favourite book was The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann.

4. In Austria, Ian found that a number of young women threw themselves at him. He wrote in his notebook about how these heterosexual couplings of Austrians with Anglo-Saxons could be 'so distasteful'.

Ian hiked in the Austrian hills with his male friends. Sometimes they spent a couple of nights in Alpine huts. (Lycett)

5. In the summer of 1929 Ian and his mother were on holiday in Corsica. Ian met up with two homosexuals with whom he passed the time playing bridge. (Lycett)

6. Back in London, while strolling down Bond Street, Ian spotted, in the window of a bookshop, a book of poetry entitled Pansies. Ian entered the bookshop to make enquiries about the book. (Lycett)

7. In 1935 Ian went to work as a stockbroker with the firm of Rowe and Pitman in London. Lancy Hugh Smith, the firm's senior partner was a bachelor. Lancy got on well with Ian who was good at charming older men. One former colleague of Ian's described Ian as being 'a hell of a tart'. (Lycett)

8. In his late twenties, Ian was still living at home with his 'overbearing' mother. Eventually he bought a central London flat. (Lycett)

9. One of Ian's female friends was Lady Mary Pakenham. According to Lady Mary, Ian was feminine and nervous and he often had a look of melancholy and loss.

According to Lady Mary, "the average girl simply did not like him." At parties, Ian would initiate a conversation with a put-down. (Lycett)

10. In some of Ian's erotic fantasies, there were schoolmistresses who whipped people. According to Lycett, Ian had a large collection of books about flagellation. (Lycett)


11. During World War II, Ian worked for Naval Intelligence.

12. At this time, two of Ian's friends were Ann O'Neill, who strongly fancied Ian, and Sefton Delmer, an expert on black propaganda.

According to Ann, Delmer "rouses all Ian's brain mania, plus his sublimated homosexualism." (Lycett)

On the subject of marriage, Ian told a friend Peter Smithers: "I can't see anything in it for me." (Lycett)

Ian was eventually persuaded or manipulated into marrying Ann when he was aged 43. It was not a happy marriage.

13. One evening in London, in 1943, Ian stepped into a pub off Piccadilly and got talking to a stranger, who turned out to be the homosexual poet James Kirkup. Ian asked for Kirkup's address. (Lycett)

14. At a Christmas day party, in 1943, Ian gave each of the female guests a book of Verlaine's poems, with suitable passages marked by Ian. Ann O'Neill found that her passage referred to lesbian love. Paul Verlaine's poetry celebrates homosexuality. (Lycett)

15. One of Ian's American contacts was Lieutenant Alan Schneider of the US navy. Ian told Schneider that "men were the only real human beings, the only ones he could be friends with." (Lycett)

16. Ian attended an Anglo-American naval conference in Jamaica. He told his friend Ivar Bryce: "When we have won this blasted war, I am going to live in Jamaica ... and write books." (Lycett)

Jamaica was to become, for a time, a place that attracted many famous gay men, such as Ian's friend Noel Coward.

According to Ian, Kingston, the capital, "would provide you with every known amorous constellation and permutation." (Lycett)


16. Ian went to work for The Sunday Times as foreign manager. Many of the journalists he worked with, such as Antony Terry and Henry Brandon, had links to the intelligence services. According to Anthony Cavendish, a former British agent, the newspaper group for which Ian worked was happy to take on MI6 people as foreign correspondents. (Lycett).

17. In 1946, aged 38, Ian was smoking 70 cigarettes and drinking a bottle of gin each day. (Lycett)

18. On Jamaica, Ian built a house called Goldeneye. Ian employed a houseboy and other staff for this bachelors' paradise. When Ivar Bryce and John Fox-Strangeways came to stay with Ian, the three of them would swim naked before breakfast. (Lycett)

Ian's first tenant at Goldeneye was his gay friend Noel Coward.

19. Around 1948, Ann O'Neill wrote a fictionalised account of her relationship with Ian. In this story, Ian is called Gervase. Ann explained that Gervase (Ian) was attractive to both men and women and his services were solicited by "middle-aged men of medium eminence."

Ann once told Evelyn Waugh that Ian's "only happiness is pink gin, golf clubs and men." (Lycett)

20. Ann divorced her husband Viscount Rothermere. In 1952, she became pregnant. Ian, aged 43, decided to marry her.

1952 - 1964

21. Marriage led Ian to start writing his Bond books. It was a form of escape.

22. Ian and Ann often took separate holidays.

23. Ian traveled to Jamaica as often as possible. Among the guests at Goldeneye at this time was Angus Wilson who lived in Jamaica with his companion Odo Cross, a former Guards officer who liked to wear his mother's pearls. (Lycett)

24. Ann and Ian were friends of the reportedly gay writer Somerset Maugham and they visited him at his villa in the South of France. Ian adopted a 'fawning role' with Maugham and Ann was struck by the similarities between the two writers. Both liked exotic-smelling soaps in their bathrooms. Ann had "a curious feeling that they both regarded 'women' with mistrust". (Lycett)

25. Truman Capote stayed at Goldeneye and Ian described him as being a 'fascinating companion'.

Errol Flynn was another visitor to Goldeneye.

The north coast of Jamaica was seen as having a growing gay enclave. (Lycett)

26. Ann began a long relationship with Hugh Gaitskell, leader of the United Kingdom's Labour Party, and seen as being a possible future Prime Minister. Ann reported to her friend Beaverbrook that Gaitskell was a "changed man - all he wants is wine, women and song". (Lycett)

Meanwhile, Ian was having a relationship with a wealthy Jewish woman in Jamaica, called Blanche Blackwell.

27. When Ian's four-year-old son Caspar came out to Jamaica, Ian noted that Caspar wore a hibiscus flower in his ear and called himself Mary.

When the family went to Austria, Caspar was dressed in lederhosen. (Lycett)

28. In 1957, Ian found himself in a Dean's Bar.

This was a gay bar, in Tangier in Morocco.

Ian had chosen Tangier as a place to meet retired MI5 agent John Collard who was based in South Africa.

Ian wanted to talk to Collard in connection with research for a book. (Lycett)

29. Ian liked Venice and when he traveled there with Ann he gave her a copy of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, the story of a man's love for a boy. (Lycett)

30. In Dr No, we read of Honeychile: "It was a beautiful back. The skin was a very light uniform café au lait with the sheen of dull satin. The gentle curve of the backbone was deeply indented, suggesting more powerful muscles than is usual in a woman, and the behind was almost as firm and rounded as a boy's."

In 1963, Cyril Connolly wrote a parody of Bond for the London Magazine. This was called Bond Strikes Camp and it seemed to suggest that most British spies were secretly gay.

31. In the early 1960s, Ian would spend evenings with John blackwell.

Blackwell was a bachelor school teacher who had a house in the grounds of Wellesley House school at Broadstairs in Kent. The school takes boys up to the age of thirteen.

On Sunday afternoons Ian and Blackwell would take some pupils from the school on a car outing to a local golf course. Ian would give the boys Bond memorabilia. (Lycett)

32. Hugh Gaitskell died rather mysteriously in 1963.

33. Ian Fleming died in 1964, aged 56.

34. His son Caspar died in 1975.


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