Men in Eden: William Drummond Stewart and Same-Sex Desire in the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade

. October 2012. 384p. 978-0-80323-778-0. 29.95.
William Drummond Stewart (1795–1871) was a Scottish nobleman and soldier, a Byronic dandy who left his home for the New World, where he led the life of an adventurer in the Rocky Mountains. In this, the first major biography of Stewart in almost 50 years, Benemann (archivist, Boalt Hall Law Sch. Lib.; Male-Male Intimacy in Early America: Beyond Romantic Friendships) adds a shade of lavender to this colorful character. Focusing primarily on Stewart’s seven years in America, the author skillfully interweaves a portrait of the outwardly macho world of the Rocky Mountain fur trappers, whose work was ideally suited to “confirmed bachelors,” and a study of the influence of Native Americans who not merely accepted but ritualized homosexuality. In this almost all-male subculture, Stewart found surcease from hidebound 19th-century society, maintaining same-sex relationships with surprising candor.
VERDICT Given the dearth of explicit source material, Benemann, as in his previous book, does a lot of conjecturing and inferring, parsing Stewart’s letters and two novels for coded homoeroticism, but as in the earlier work, the results are utterly convincing. An engaging contribution to LGBT history; highly recommended.

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