Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries homosexual men from many countries travelled to the Mediterranean, following in the footsteps of Winckelmann and Platen, Byron and Symonds. They came for classical ruins and Renaissance art, for sun and sea and for the youths whom they could seduce with love or money. The writers or artists among them often brought homoerotic themes of the Mediterranean to their work. Sometimes they framed whole stories, novels or poems around the lure of the Mediterranean, punctuated with references to the flora and fauna of the South and allusions to the lives and loves of the ancients. For others, the Mediterranean was only a setting.
The Germans formed the largest contingent of writers on the Mediterranean and homosexual visitors to the South. This is not surprising considering the legal persecution of homosexuals in Germany, the importance of classical education there in the nineteenth century, increasing interest in the history of homosexuality with the homosexual emancipation movement by the late 1800s and general northern yearning for the warmth of the South. The northern French travelled southwards to their own Mediterranean coast, Italy or, frequently, North Africa; the decriminalisation of homosexuality in French law and a certain acceptance of homosexuality, at least in artistic circles, diminished the need for French long-term expatriation. Russian intellectuals voyaged to Italy, although, more often than the Germans or French, they tended to socialise (and fall in love) with each other in Italy. A few homosexual writers from Scandinavia and the Low Countries also went south or wrote about homosexuality using Mediterranean motifs. 1 For all of them, the cultural, emotional and psychological experience of the Mediterranean was strong, and for most it was liberating.
To a few, the Mediterranean was unable to bring solace. One was Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75), the Danish story-teller, novelist and poet,