Today In Gay History: January 3rd – Famous Swiss Historian Johannes von Müller Born – 1752

Johannes von Müller (1752-1809). Born in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, Müller was an astonishingly erudite Swiss historian .

Müller who later in life would become an  astonishingly erudite Swiss historian was born of modest means and whose father was a clergyman and rector of the gymnasium. In his youth, his maternal grandfather, Johannes Schoop (1696–1757), roused in him an interest in the history of his country.

He was respected and liked by many major intellectuals, including Goethe, Herder, Gleim, and Bonnet. Friedrich Schiller relied on his History of the Swiss Confederation for the writing of William Tell.

In 1773, Müller fell in love with the Swiss nobleman Karl Viktor von Bonstetten, with whom he remained friends until Müller’s death. A mutual friend, Friederike Brun, indiscreetly published Müller’s early love letters to Bonstetten in 1798. The letters thematize friendship, document a literary tradition of male-male love, and indicate an awareness of their imitation of Winckelmann.

Later in life, Müller was the dupe of an elaborate scheme to defraud him by exploiting his homosexuality. One of his former pupils (and perhaps lovers) invented a Hungarian Count Louis von Batthyani and penned letters to Müller in which the Count expressed his love and inclination.

Müller responded with letters of unfettered passion and an awareness that this friendship and its depiction in letters far exceeded his earlier relationship with Bonstetten, possibly the purest expression of eighteenth-century homosocial desire that exists.

After a year and more than a hundred letters, when the fiction could no longer be sustained, Müller was financially and psychologically destroyed. Goethe was one of several friends who helped him recover

Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, writer, blogger and owner of A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Advocate, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, Raw Story, and The Huffington Post

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