Last week in Edinburgh, Suzie gave me an early birthday present of Emma Donoghue’s book Passions Between Women: British Lesbian Culture 1668-1801 (first published 1993). Inside the book, written in Suzie’s precise Italic script, is the note: Isn’t it curious that both ‘vampyre’ and ‘lesbian’ entered the English record in 1732? It’s a slightly disingenuous observation, on many levels, but the coincidence is nonetheless delightful.
The use of ‘lesbian’ (in contexts not directly related to the Greek island) is generally thought to date to the late nineteenth century (so says the dictionary, anyway; see Case Study: Terms for Lesbian(ism)), but Emma Donoghue points to the phrase ‘Lesbian Loves’ in William King’s 1732 poem The Toast. (See also Rictor Norton’s page about The Toast.)
It’s fitting, therefore, that female vampires who love women have been around for a long time in English literature. Carmilla in 1872 is the obvious one, though not explicitly a lesbian, but even earlier there was Geraldine in Coleridge’s 1800 poem Christabel (see The Female Vampire) who wasn’t even explicitly a vampire.
Emma Donoghue’s book opens with the suggestion that Queen Anne (b. 1665; Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland 1702–14) had affairs with women. Queen Anne must have suffered considerably during her life (pregnant seventeen times, but no surviving children) but I do like the idea of a lesbian queen…
… especially after the recent storm-in-a-teacup stirred up by Lord Tebbit’s article, Maybe I’d be allowed to marry my son:
When we have a queen who is a lesbian and she marries another lady and then decides she would like to have a child and someone donates sperm and she gives birth to a child, is that child heir to the throne?
His primary concern in this article is with the law of succession. If history has taught us one thing, it’s that monarchs have to produce healthy babies. Or else. Doesn’t matter who’s screwing what so long as legitimate heirs are produced. If Queen Anne was a lesbian, she didn’t have the luxury of choosing a wife.
However, technology marches on (see A World Without Men), and who knows, maybe one day we’ll have an heir to the throne with three mothers…