Sunday, 15 December 2019

My Contribution to the Gender Debate

This fantastical rigmarole contains an interesting phrase.
It's the title page of a pamphlet put out by the extremely successful quack 'Dr' James Graham, proprietor of the Temple of Health and the Hymeneal Temple, in their day two of London's most sensational attractions:

       
                  'Il Convito Amoroso,
           Or a Serio-Comico-Philosophical
                           Lecture
                            on the
Causes, Nature and Effects of Love and Beauty at the dif-
ferent periods of Human Life, in Persons and Personages,
Male, Female, and Demi-Caractère; and in Praise of the
 Genial and Prolific Influences of the Celestial Bed.
           As delivered by Hebe Vesteria
     The Rosy Goddess of Youth and of Health
                          from the
Electrical Throne, in the Great Apollo Chamber at the
           Temple of Hymen, in London.'


The phrase that caught my eye was 'Male, Female and Demi-Caractère'. Dr Graham seems to have been an early adopter of the non-binary view of these matters...
'Demi-Caractère' derives from dance, where it describes a style of dancing that partakes of both character dance and classical ballet – a hybrid style. Presumably it is used here to describe a kind of hybrid sex, with elements of both male and female. I pass this on as my contribution to the ever vexed gender debate. Wouldn't a term like 'demi-caractère' raise the tone considerably?

(The famous Celestial Bed is a story in itself, and a pretty mind-boggling one – follow this link for a brief account of it.)





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