Cecil Dreeme: Queer Classic Novel

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Robert Byng has recently returned from his Grand Tour of Europe to settle in New York City. An old friend lends Byng his rooms at Chrysalis College (an equivalent of real-life New York University, perhaps also partially modelled on the Tenth Street Studio Building). It is there that Byng meets his mysterious and reclusive neighbor Cecil Dreeme, and the two strike up a romantic friendship. However, Byng is also tempted by the villainous Densdeth, who seems to want the protagonist to fall into a life of unspecified sin and debauchery. Published posthumously by the author’s friend George William Curtis in 1861, Cecil Dreeme has been called “one of the queerest American novels of the nineteenth century” by scholar Peter Coviello, and it addresses themes of gender and sexuality.


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