BMCR 1992.01.16

Bachelors of Art: Edward Perry Warren & the Lewes House Brotherhood

, Bachelors of art : Edward Perry Warren & the Lewes House brotherhood. London: Fourth Estate, 1991. xi, 289 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm. ISBN 9781872180113.

E.P. Warren (1860-1928), born into a wealthy papermaking family in Waltham, Massachusetts, graduated from Harvard and then moved to an Oxford that was more tolerant of his homosexuality. He purchased Lewes House, “a monkish establishment where women were not welcomed” (Rothenstein, Men and Memories 1872-1900 (London 1934) 343). There he long lived with his companion, John Marshall. They called each other “Puppy,” dressed alike and even looked remarkably alike. Warren, rich and blessed by Pio Nono, collected ancient art and did much of the purchasing for the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, where his brother chaired the board of trustees.

The book is the first honest portrayal of Warren and his circle. Although the author is a journalist rather than a scholar, he uses archival material and is free of the preconceived opinions that often make archaeologists the worst historians of their own disciplne. The book is of importance to classicists for two reasons. A number of the items, most notorious the Boston Throne, secured by Warren are now considered forgeries. The utter corruption of Italian archaeology and the ignorance of unscrupulous buyers are illustrated here. We see for the first time the context of irresponsible acquisition. Further, some influential scholars were part of Warren’s circle. Beazley was often at Lewes House and by his own admission owed his choice of profession to Warren. The bisexual, Ludwig Curtius, briefly appears (41). One would like an edition of the correspondence between Warren and Curtius. Most interesting is the frequent appearance of Wolfgang Helbig, the forger of the fibula praenestina and possibly many of the Roman portraits secured by him for the Danish brewer Jacobsen and now in the Glyptothek in Copenhagen. The enigma has been why did Helbig, a first rate scholar, married to a woman of great wealth and suspected only by Otto Jahn (Mommsen and Wilamowitz trusted him), need to sell forgeries. Blackmail is an obvious reason and the connection with the Lewes circle suggests that perhaps he sought to hide homosexual indiscretions. A mistress or two would have posed no threat in Rome of the Jahrhundertwende. Discussion (198ff.) of “The Brotherhood of Ruhleben,” the detention camp west of Berlin where British nationals were interned including the epigraphist, H.J.W. Tillyard, (see Wilamowitz-Murray Letters, 116) is informative indeed.

The book is only a beginning. Sox is wildly ignorant of classical antiquity and Wissenschaftsgeschichte, but he is to be praised for treating honestly what priggish professionals want to cover up. A documented, scholarly life of Warren by someone unafraid of truth and able to control the ancient material is needed.