Count Eric Stanislaus (or Stanislaus Eric) Stenbock ( Born: March 14, 1860) was a Baltic Swedish poet and writer of macabre fantastic fiction. He is known for his Gothic and decadent literary style, which was heavily influenced by the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde. Despite his literary success, Count Stenbock’s personal life was shrouded in controversy, particularly regarding his sexuality.
While homosexuality was not openly discussed during Count Stenbock’s lifetime, there are numerous accounts of his romantic and sexual relationships with other men. In fact, many of his poems and stories contain homoerotic themes and imagery. For example, his poem “Prelude” describes a love affair between two young men, while his novel, “The Other Side: A Breton Legend,” features a male protagonist who falls in love with a male vampire.
Count Stenbock’s homosexuality was not well-received by his family, who were staunchly conservative and disapproved of anything they considered immoral or scandalous. As a result, Count Stenbock was often ostracized and left to fend for himself. He spent much of his life traveling throughout Europe, moving from one literary circle to another in search of acceptance and validation.
Despite the challenges he faced, Count Stenbock continued to write prolifically, producing numerous poems, short stories, and novels throughout his lifetime. His work was widely admired by his peers, many of whom were also members of the lesbian and gay community.
Virtually forgotten today, he was the aesthete who could out-aesthete the great Oscar Wilde. A writer of opium-induced poems and stories, he once hosted Wilde who dared light a cigarette in front of a bust of Shelly. The sacrilege was so horrible the count fainted.
His work continues to be studied and celebrated by scholars and readers alike.
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