Charles Hirsch (bookseller)

Charles Hirsch was a French bookseller in Victorian London who sold French literature and ran a clandestine trade in expensive pornography. He was involved in the writing of Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal, an early work of homosexual pornography, and described Oscar Wilde's involvement in its compilation.

Hirsch's bookshop Librairie Parisienne was at Coventry Street, London.[1][2][3] He also published in Paris and translated pornographic works from French to English and vice versa.[4][5] He published a translation of Teleny into French in 1934.[6]

Hirsch and WildeEdit

Hirsch knew Oscar Wilde, and claimed to have sold him various works of erotica, including The Sins of the Cities of the Plain in 1890.[2][7][8][9][10]

Hirsch describes how Wilde brought the manuscript of Teleny to his bookshop in 1890 instructing that it be held until a friend, who would be carrying Wilde's card, came to retrieve it. "A few days later one of the young gentlemen I had seen with [Wilde] came to collect the package. He kept it for a while and then brought it back saying in turn: 'Would you kindly give this to one of our friends who will come to fetch it in the same person's name'". Hirsch recounts three further repetitions of this "identical ceremony" before the package made its way back to Wilde. Hirsch defied the strict instructions not to open the package while it was in his care, and claims that it was written in several different hands, which lends further support to his supposition that it was authored in "round robin" style by a small group of Wilde's intimate associates.[11][12][13]


  1. ^ Chris White, "Nineteenth-century writings on homosexuality: a sourcebook", CRC Press, 2002, ISBN 0-203-00240-7, p.285
  2. ^ a b Matt Cook, "London and the culture of homosexuality, 1885–1914", Cambridge studies in nineteenth-century literature and culture, Cambridge University Press, 2003 ISBN 0-521-82207-6, p.28
  3. ^ Joseph Bristow, "Remapping the Sites of Modern Gay History: Legal Reform, Medico‐Legal Thought, Homosexual Scandal, Erotic Geography", Journal of British Studies 46 (January 2007) 116–142. doi:10.1086/508401
  4. ^ Michael Camille, Adrian Rifkin, "Other objects of desire: collectors and collecting queerly", Art History Special Issue, Wiley-Blackwell, 2001, ISBN 0-631-23361-X, p.87
  5. ^ Olive Classe, "Encyclopedia of literary translation into English, Volume 1",Taylor & Francis, 2000, ISBN 1-884964-36-2, p.419
  6. ^ Edouard Roditi, "Oscar Wilde", New Directions Publishing, 1986, ISBN 0-8112-0995-4, p.166
  7. ^ Harford Montgomery Hyde, "The trials of Oscar Wilde", Courier Dover Publications, 1973, ISBN 0-486-20216-X, p.87
  8. ^ Pamela K. Gilbert, "Imagined Londons", SUNY Press, 2002, ISBN 0-7914-5501-7, p.66
  9. ^ Harford Montgomery Hyde, "The love that dared not speak its name: a candid history of homosexuality in Britain", Little, Brown, 1970, p.141
  10. ^ Matt Cook, "A New City of Friends': London and Homosexuality in the 1890s", History Workshop Journal 56 (2003) 33–58. doi:10.1093/hwj/56.1.33
  11. ^ Nelson, James. Publisher to the Decadents: Leonard Smithers in the Careers of Beardsley, Wilde, Dowson. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000
  12. ^ Robert Gray and Christopher Keep, "An Uninterrupted Current: Homoeroticism and collaborative authorship in Teleny", in Marjorie Stone, Judith Thompson (edd) "Literary Couplings: Writing Couples, Collaborators, and the Construction of Authorship", University of Wisconsin Press, 2007, ISBN 0-299-21764-7, p.193
  13. ^ Edouard Roditi, "Oscar Wilde", New Directions Publishing, 1986, ISBN 0-8112-0995-4, p.168