The Naked Civil Servant (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)
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A comical and poignant memoir of a gay man living life as he pleased in the 1930s
In 1931, gay liberation was not a movement—it was simply unthinkable. But in that year, Quentin Crisp made the courageous decision to "come out" as a homosexual. This exhibitionist with the henna-dyed hair was harrassed, ridiculed and beaten. Nevertheless, he claimed his right to be himself—whatever the consequences. The Naked Civil Servant is both a comic masterpiece and a unique testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
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perched on the knee of its central character. Moreover, while I sat thus, he powdered my face and declared openly that I was his favourite. A production of A Midsummer Night's Dream was being put on at the preparatory school to which my two brothers went. To give it a professional gloss, a down-and-out actor, who showed us photographs of himself wearing nothing but a bunch of grapes, had been engaged as director. It is an instance of my mother's spasmodic indulgence of me that I was allowed to
acquaintance to fluff out her hair and state in the witness box that she was his fiancee. This was supposed to make his visit to the club seem to have been a misguided sightseeing escapade. A present-day magistrate would merely think that the existence of the lady made matters worse. I went to two or three of these clubs in my more optimistic days and observed that every year they grew more respectable or, at least, more restrained. Even in the beginning, when they were slightly sordid, I never
became very numerous. Perhaps drawing was a pleasant distraction from the bombs before which some people tended to go 132 to pieces. When peace broke out, their number did not decrease. The Minister of Education ran down to the water's edge and, as our brave boys disembarked, scattered grants to art schools over their heads like confetti. Some fell on men whose art training had been interrupted by their service with His Majesty's Forces; some reached stockbrokers, stevedores, street-walkers and
where these circumstances obtain are not easy to find. When discovered they are frequented first by the few, later by the many and finally by the police. At one time the towpath at Putney was such a dreamland, but it became so well known that the police took to driving motor launches along that part of the river and suddenly shining searchlights on its southern bank. When this happened 155 everyone who was not already in that position fiung hinuelf flat on the ground. As this riverside brothel
scene for laughs, turning slowly towards the public, with his hands in the air like George Sanders uttering his best linea. These included, 'You are a male person, I presume.' This total abandonment of dignity reminded me of the collapse of Harley Street at my medical examination four years earlier. The police behaved in the perfectly conventional way that I remembered well. They rattled off their evidence as though it were the litany. They said that between the hours of this and that, they had