NO ONE who saw George Cecil Ives (1867-1950) would have suspected that he was anything remarkable. Always dressed in sober brown, often tweed, suits, his conventional appearance belied both an iron will and a prolific homosexual lifestyle at a time when that was illegal.
I came across George Cecil Ives while looking for material about sports at the turn of the 20th century. Ives was a huge fan of cricket and kept meticulous records for numerous matches in his scrapbooks. He would later become, inadvertently, the first openly gay first-class cricketer when he took to the field himself, not terribly successfully, in 1902. My own interest in cricket is limited at best, but Ives was also a poet and political campaigner. His book Eros’ Throne (1900) is quite remarkable, being full of anger, lust, and outrage at a world that not only condemned his homosexual nature but also endorsed the brutal treatment of those less fortunate than himself. The poetry is almost unique for the period in making no attempt at all to hide his nature and views. Ives believed that his homosexuality was entirely natural, writing lines such as: “strange that tale of sex division./ Borne down the aged flow of tide,/ Nothing bizarre and capricious/ but by nature has been made” (Eros’ Throne). This viewpoint remained as steadfast throughout his life as his love of cricket.
One cricket match in particular looms large in Ives’ story.
Rebecca Batley is a historian with a special interest in LGBT art and culture.