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Friday, July 4, 2014

Havelock Ellis, Early 'Sexologist' on Ned Kelly [Brian Stevenson]

Havelock Ellis (1859-1939), the British writer and ‘sexologist’ wrote extensively on sexual behaviour in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He lived in Australia for four years, 1875-1879, and so would have heard much of the exploits of the Kelly Gang. At 19, he was teaching school at Sparkes Creek, New South Wales. He might have been more happily at home in the 1960s and 1970s with his belief that sexual freedom could bring about a new age of happiness. He is famous for writing the first serious study of homosexuality in Britain, Sexual inversion (1897) but a previous work, The criminal (1890, but reprinted many times) contained a couple of pages on Ned Kelly which I could not find online. Perhaps the Ned bits did not appear in all editions, but here is what I found.

The extract below is from:

Havelock Ellis, The criminal . 5th edition, revised and enlarged. London, New York and Melbourne 1914, and is contained in chapter 4, Criminal Anthropology (Psychical), section on Intelligence, pp 161-163.

Ellis was not big on paragraphs, so I have inserted paragraph breaks – the last five paragraphs were contained in one. Ellis gets many of the facts wrong (Fitzpatrick gets it in the noggin with a frying pan instead of a coal shovel!), but seems to have a high opinion of some aspects of Ned’s character.

Ellis writes:

'A more recent example of a criminal who exhibited mental qualities of a high order and capacities of organisation, though under different conditions from those under which [Jonathan] Wild [English highwayman discussed on immediately preceding pages], is furnished by Edward Kelly, the Australian bushranger, the leader of the Kelly gang.

Ned Kelly, as he is usually called, was born in 1854, near Kilmore, in Victoria, but his ancestors came from Ireland, and on both sides the future outlaw may be said to have had outlawry in his blood. His maternal grandfather, James Quin [sic] was a notorious horse-stealer; his paternal grandfather took part in the Irish insurrection of 1798; while his father, who was transported for an agrarian outrage in Tipperary, is described as a man who possessed all the virtues of his race, but with something of the rebel in him that would not harmonise with civilisation. At an early age Kelly and his younger brother began to follow in the steps of their ancestors, but went little beyond horse-stealing until a fray [sic] occurred in which a constable was wounded. This incident is still obscure; it is said the constable made improper advances to Kelly's sister, but in any case Kelly was intensely exasperated, especially as his mother, to whom he was devotedly attached, was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment for wielding a frying-pan in the fray. Thenceforth the Kellys took to the bush.

The Kelly Country, as it is sometimes called, covers about 1600 square miles in the north-east of Victoria, a wild and picturesque region of forest and valley and mountain. All over this district, and beyond it, the outlaws had friends and sympathisers; an army of police, detectives, spies, and blacks were on their track, but they were always warned in time, although a price of 8000 pounds was set on the heads of the four chief outlaws. When an encounter occurred it was the police who left their dead on the field, and on one occasion, indeed, the police preferred to hide under the beds of their hotel rather than fight. Kelly's men were mostly of ferocious character, but he had them under perfect control; while his sister Kate was ready to leap into her saddle by day or by night to carry messages or food, or to test the trustworthiness of waverers. The outlaws wore iron caps and breastplates fashioned from ploughshares, which withstood the best modern rifles. Kelly himself is described as a fine and noble-looking man, tall and well-proportioned, with a flowing brown beard.

He never permitted any unnecessary violence, was always ready to respond to an appeal to sentiment, and showed the greatest consideration for women and children. His chief exploits consisted in 'sticking up' banks. The raid on the Euroa bank is a wonderful example of his generalship and of that fine economy of means in attaining a startling success that stamps the master-mind. It was necessary to obtain a base for the operation; coming down with his three men to a squatter's station near the town, he quietly explained what he wanted, obtained refreshment, and even kept his victims in good humour. In a few hours all hands on the station, including several gentlemen who were armed, were left locked up in the store-room, within a few yards of the railroad, in charge of one of the band.

On the same afternoon, in broad daylight, the outlaws drove up in two carts to the bank in the centre of the town. A revolver was held at the head of the manager, Mr Scott, and before he had time to seize his own from the table before him, all the gold and notes were secured to the amount of nearly 3000 pounds, and Kelly was soon on terms of the 'utmost good feeling and affability' with Mrs Scott. Then he harnessed the manager's buggy, and the whole household was invited to depart, Mrs Scott driving the buggy. The raid was arranged for bank-closing time, and the townspeople supposed that the Scotts were starting on a pleasure trip. The bank party were [sic] left at the squatter's station with the others, now over forty in number; Kelly gave strict orders that no one was to leave the house for three hours after the departure of the gang, and so great was his moral authority that none disobeyed him.

An end came at last to the impunity of the outlaws, and they were surrounded by overwhelming numbers. Even then Kelly himself escaped, but returned to give himself up, seeing that his men were doomed; when the police in the early dawn saw the tall figure, on which their shots produced no effect, we are told that some thought they had seen a ghost and were overcome with terror. Kelly was executed; the other outlaws had committed suicide. There are curious points of resemblance in Kelly's story to the doubtless legendary story of the famous old English criminal, Robin Hood, though, while the latter has been idealised by the ballad-makers, Kelly's exploits have been vulgarised by the reporter and the policeman. Yet both are episodes in an imperfectly evolved society, in which much of the virtue and more of the skill are on the side of the rebels.'

Ellis concludes:

(In the above account of Kelly I have largely quoted from an article of my own (mainly founded on H A White's Tales of crime in Australia) in the Saturday review.)

I have looked for Ellis’s Saturday review article online, but have had no joy yet, not even the date. If anyone has it, could they let me know via my email?

Brian Stevenson