Lucien Price (January 6, 1883 – March 30, 1964) by Jonathan Ned Katz

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Young Lucien Price, date unknown.

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Lucien Price's dedication to the Insitute for Sex Research, in grateful memory of Alfred Kinsey. October 1958, in a copy of Price's October Rhapsody.

First published on OutHistory June 27, 2021
Last edit July 30, 2021

Junius Lucien Price
 (January 6, 1883 – March 30, 1964), whose series of novels, All Souls, make him a pioneering homosexual author and resistor. 

Price, who also published under the name Seymour Deming, was the author of more than a dozen books and a writer for publications such as the Boston Evening Transcript as an editorial writer and arts reviewer from 1907 to 1914. He wrote for The Atlantic Monthly and went on to create "an illustrious career as a writer and journalist" in Greater Boston. At the time of his death at age 81, he was still writing for The Boston Globe.[1, 2, 3]

Price had a Yankee grandfather, Abel Burt, who left Brimfield, Massachusetts, and settled in Brimfield, Ohio, in the Connecticut Western Reserve. Price's father was a doctor.

"We were New England transplantees," Price wrote of his family, "and we had two choices: either to rot or to grow."[2]

Price was born January 6, 1883, in Kent, Ohio. A journalist there later reported that Price "immortalized fond memories of hometown" there.[2] In his writing Price created "Woolwick," a pseudonym for Kent, and described the place as "built on the banks of a steep river gorge  ...  half railroad-junction and half agrarian market-town."[2]

Western Reserve Academy

Price attended Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio. He kept in close contact with his prep school for the rest of his life and was regularly invited back for events. Prince had "lengthy and lively correspondence with Headmaster Joel B. Hayden" and, near the end of his life, made arrangements to transfer approximately 3,000 volumes of his personal library to Western Reserve Academy. There was for several years a "Lucien Price Room" suitable as classroom space and used to house some special items of the "Lucien Price Book Collection", but the room was phased out with the start of the new John D. Ong Library in the spring of 2000.[3]


After his 1901 graduation from Western Reserve Academy, Price left Ohio and attended Harvard University and graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1907.[2] 


While at Harvard, although not 'out,' he was fairly open about his homosexuality and several of his early books relate the love affair he had there with a fellow Harvard student.

Several chapters of Douglass Shand-Tucci's book "The Crimson Letter: Harvard, Homosexuality, and the Shaping of American Culture" are devoted to Price.[4]

All Souls Volumes

In 1919, Lucien Price began to write what would become an eight-volume series of novels on a homosexual emancipation theme. Between 1951 and 1962, Price privately published seven of these novels, each of which tells a self-­contained story, with the whole covering the years 1893 to the late l950s-historical fiction pro­viding a panoramic view of American male homosexual life and including many auto­biographical details.

Printed in small editions of several hundred copies, Price's novels have remained unknown, their author forgotten as a daring homosexual emancipation pioneer. In 1989, the homosexual novels were mentioned in only one obscure published source.

Price and his novels were brought to my attention by an extremely generous correspondent who volunteered to research Price's life, read all his novels, and who then sent me an extraordinary 106-page report. On November 7, 1989, I published an essay about Price in The Advocate, "Glimpses of Gay Arcadia: Rediscovering the Works of Lucien Price, Unknown Homosexual Emancipation Pioneer" (pp. 52-53).

I later bought six of Price's novels, two signed by the author and dedicated to the Kinsey Institute, to which he had sent them. I paid a bookseller about $8 each for Price's books after they were de-accessioned (as they say) by the Kinsey library, which
obviously had no idea what it was selling. (So much for the safety of our treasures in
major archives.)

Price collectively titled his novels All Souls, a reference to All Souls' Day, the Christian festival in remembrance of the dead. The day was associated for Price with the death and continuing creative influence of Fred Demmler, a beloved young friend (possibly a lover) killed on All Souls' Day, 1918, days before the end of World War I -- a death motivating Price to start his novels. The title All Souls also referred to the rebirth of ancient Greek homosexual love in the modern world as a creative, civilizing force. Price's All Soul's novels constitute a chronological epic named in their consecutive titles, but the books were published in a different order. See the separate chronological and consecutive lists of the All Souls titles.

As documents of homosexual history and resistance, Price's novels are a fascinating, incredibly valuable discovery.

Gore Vidal on Lucien Price

In preparing my article on Price for The Advocate, I wrote to Gore Vidal, asking him to comment briefly on his friendship with Lucien Price. Vidal responded that he had met Price after Price had publicly praised Vidal's novel Messiah (1955) in the Boston Globe.

"This was a time," said Vidal, "when I was either not reviewed or strongly attacked. I got to know him during the decade (his last) when I could no longer publish novels [and] turned to theater, TV ...."  Vidal explained in The New York Review of Books that after publishing The City and The Pillar (1948), "about the love affair of two ordinary American youths," his next five novels were not-­reviewed in The New York Times, Time, or Newsweek; and he was forced to turn away from novel writing for ten years. With
Julian (1964), Vidal dedicated to Price "my return to the novel."

Vidal recalled Price as "splendid to talk to, an old-fashioned Platonist in his questioning style...." Vidal said that he and Price "were as one in our detestation of Christianity and the moral mien that accompanies it like an acid rain."

Price's novels, said Vidal, displays his "idealization" of the American past. "He had a view of Arcadia-well, Thebes - that he had impressed upon the Western Reserve." Price "lived in a glowing nativist past." But writing on the modern world in his Globe columns, Price "was shrewd and tough as nails."

Katz on Price's Writing

As literature, I concluded: "I'm afraid, Price's fictions are fatally flawed. Their plots are melodramatic; their characters, idealized. In these novels, all homosexuals are wise, good, beautiful, and creative; Price's neo-Greek aristo­crats always dress for dinner, never splashing spaghetti sauce over their starched white shirtfronts."

The Sacred Legion

Price's wonderfully purple plots are suggested by a summary of his series's third novel, The Sacred Legion: The Lion of Charonaea. This picks up the story of poet and playwright Ross MacNeil and sculptor Dion Diomedes who, with their great-grand-daddy's lost gold (recovered fortuitously in an earlier volume), move to Lesbos in Greece (yes, Lesbos). They buy a half-ruined old monastery, and when an earthquake cracks the foundations of this Christian edifice (get the symbolism?), the two discover the entrance to an ancient tomb. ln it are several old Greek papyruses, the texts, no less, of three lost ancient Greek homosexual plays, and the complete poems of Sappho!

Convinced that heterosexual society would rather destroy these documents than admit their existence, the two arrange to smuggle them out of Greece with the help of a woman friend (who may have a special interest in Sappho). In America, their friends secretly prepare to reveal the lost poems and plays to the world, forcing it to recognize the existence of an old, valuable homosexual love. Price's novels now read as rather plodding camp liberation classics. But Price's imagining his characters' resistance tactics was radical and almost unique in its time.

Price's Life

Much more interesting to us than Price's novels would be a book about his life, the
details of which are now known only in outline. 

Price attended Harvard from 1903 to 1907 and there became lovers with Fred Middleton, another student, with whom he remained friends for life, though Middle-­ton's marriage interrupted their "David-­Jonathan friendship" (as Price's early memorialist put it). 

From 1907 to 1914 Price worked as a reporter and music reviewer for the Boston
Transcript. In 1912 he picked up Fred Demmler in a Boston working-class restaurant and fell in love with the athletic 24-year-old artist.

Textile Workers Strike, 1912

The famous textile workers' strike in Lawrence, Mass., in 1912, made Price aware of the desperate conditions of the town's mill workers and constituted an important moment in his political develop-­ment. Having sent Price to cover the strike, the Transcript refused to publish his reports because they were too sympathetic to the workers.

In 1914 Price, radicalized by the Lawrence strike, began publishing, under the name Seymour Deming, critiques of American society inspired by the Fabian socialism of G. B. Shaw and H. G. Wells. Price spoke with respect of the Industrial Workers of the World, syndicalists, muckrakers, European social democrats, and militant suffragists. From 1914 to 1964, the year of his death, Price wrote editorials for the Boston Globe.


Among Price's friends were historian Samuel Eliot Morison, philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, and modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn (who called Price "the greatest man I have ever known"). As stated, Gore Vidal dedicated a novel, Julian, to Price.

Among Price's published work is a book based on recorded conversations with English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead.[5][6] He also published books on education as well as memoirs of his early life in Ohio. Three of his books were published under the pseudonym "Seymour Deming."[1]

Richard Nathan
After I published my article on Price in The Advocate, I was contacted by Richard Nathan who told me that "I was a close personal friend of Lucien during my years in college in Boston in the late 1950s to his death in 1964. I met him while waiting tables at a hotel in Boston's North Shore where he spent his summers. He was an exceptional man who had a major impact on my life. I have probably all of his works in print including, of course, All Souls, as well as personal correspondence."

I later met with Nathan who told me he first met Price in the summer of 1957 while Nathan was a college freshman. Nathan recalled Price, who was fifty years his senior, as "the first person to take me seriously." In the 2009 documentary “Outrage,” which probes closeted politicians, David Rothenberg recounts his friendship with Ed Koch and Richard Nathan, Koch’s lover in the 1970s. Nathan expected a mayoral appointment after Koch’s 1977 win, but was instead frozen out of the new mayor’s life and New York. He left the city for California, where he later died of AIDS. (See Andy Humm, "Ed Koch: 12 Years as Mayor, A Lifetime in the Closet," Gay City News, February 3, 2013).

Lucien Price Papers
Price's papers can no doubt tell us much more of interest about this still unrecognized homosexual emancipation pioneer. In 1965, a year after the author's death, Mrs. F. H. Middleton of Hudson, Massachusetts, gave Price's personal papers and correspondence to Harvard where they are now housed in the Houghton Library of Harvard Collect in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and take up six boxes, each three feet in length.[1][7] 

A separate collection of his papers from 1951 to 1958 are kept at Columbia University in New York City. This group of material includes notes, manuscripts, typescripts, and galley proofs for Hellas Regained, October Rhapsody, and The Sacred Legion — three novels in Price's "All Souls" series.[8]


[1] Demming: Archived 2018-07-03 at the Wayback Machine Price, Lucien, 1883–1964. Correspondence and compositions: Guide. Houghton Library, Harvard College Library,  Harvard University Library.

[2], "He never forgot Kent; Lucien Price immortalized fond memories of hometown" (April 27, 2008)

[3] Lucien Price Book Collection at WRA Library.

Crimson Letter: Harvard, Homosexuality, and the Shaping of American Culture Paperback,2004. ISBN 0312330901 ISBN 978-0312330903

[4] Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead by Lucien Price.

[5] Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead, as recorded by Lucien Price. by Alfred North Whitehead, Lucien Price.

[6] Livingstone, Richard Winn, Sir, 1880–1960. Letters to Lucien Price: Guide., Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University Library.

[7] Columbia University Libraries, Columbia University

Chronological Bibliography

of works by Lucien Price

The Pillar of Fire: A Profane Baccalaureate (Boston, Small, Maynard & Company [©1915]).

"Teaching to Think." Journal of Education, February 1, 1919. 

Prophets Unawares: The Romance of an Idea (New York, London, The Century Co. [©1924]). 

“Saga symphonic of Romain Rolland." Atlantic Monthly, 1926. 

Winged Sandals (Boston, Little Brown, & Co., 1928).

"Americans We Like: Alexander Meiklejohn," The Nation, 1927.

Review: Cotton Mather, Keeper of the Puritan Conscience by Ralph Boas, Louise Boas
The New England Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Apr., 1929), pp. 327-331. 

"Nous autres, exilés." Europe (Paris), Vol. 28, Issue. 109,  (Jan 1, 1932): 771.

Review, THE EXPERIMENTAL COLLEGE, by Alexander Meiklejohn New England Quarterly; Brunswick, Me., etc. Vol. 5, Iss. 1,  (Jan 1, 1932): 832.

Review: New Horizons in American Life by John Jay Chapman, The New England Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Oct., 1932), pp. 841-843.

"All-man Performance," Atlantic Monthly, 1936.

We Northmen (Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1936).

Litany for All Souls (Boston, Beacon Press, 1945.)

All Souls, Volume 4, The Sacred Legion, Thunder Head, Book IV (Cambridge MA: 1951).

All Souls, Volume 4, The Sacred Legion, Lion of Charonaea, Book III Cambridge, MA: University Press, Inc. 1954.

All Souls, Volume 4, The Sacred Legion, Fireweed, Book I (Cambridge, MA, University Press, Inc., 1955).

All Souls, Volume 4, The Sacred Legion, Davencliffe, Book II (Cambridge MA: University Press, Inc., 1955

Another Athens Shall Arise (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1956).

All Souls, Volume 1, Hellas Regained (Boston, MA: University Press, 1957).

All Souls, Volume 8, October Rhapsody (Boston: University Press, 1958).

All Souls, Volume 2, The Great Companions (Boston, MA: University Press, 1962).

Review: "Hellas and Israel: A Portrait of Sir Richard Livingstone." Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series, Vol. 75 (1963), pp. 66-83.

All Souls, Volume 3, The Furies (Boston, MA: Nimrod Press, Inc., 1988).

Review of "ONE BOY'S BOSTON: 1887-1901, by Samuel Eliot Morison New England Quarterly; Brunswick, Me., etc. Vol. 36, Iss. 2,  (Jun 1, 1963): 259.

All Souls Series as Chronological Epic

All Souls, Volume 1, Hellas Regained (Boston, MA: University Press, 1957).

All Souls, Volume 2, The Great Companions (Boston, MA: University Press, 1962).

All Souls, Volume 3, The Furies (Boston, MA: Nimrod Press, Inc., 1988).

All Souls, Volume 4, The Sacred Legion, Fireweed, Book I (Cambridge, MA, University Press, Inc., 1955).

All Souls, Volume 4, The Sacred Legion, Davencliffe, Book II (Cambridge MA: University Press, Inc., 1955

All Souls, Volume 4, The Sacred Legion, Lion of Charonaea, Book III Cambridge, MA: University Press, Inc. 1954.

All Souls, Volume 4, The Sacred Legion, Thunder Head, Book IV (Cambridge MA: 1951).

All Souls, Volume 8, October Rhapsody (Boston: University Press, 1958). (There are no volumes 5-7.)

Works About Lucien Price

  • Brann, Vincent, and Beekman W. Cottrell. Lucien Price letters, 1960-1994: Correspondence by, to, and about Lucien Price, together with a mimeograph copy of an obituary and editorial about him. Correspondents include Vincent Brann and Beekman W. Cottrell. Also included is a notecard from Vincent Brann to Terry Belanger, dated 1994 December 31, concerning the collection, which Brann had recently mailed to him. Several of the letters have their postmarked envelopes with them; a few have typewritten transcripts.
  • Cushing, Harvey Williams, Papers. The papers consist of correspondence, subject files, writings, and artifacts which document the professional career of Harvey Williams Cushing. The papers highlight Cushing's years on the staff of the Harvard Medical School and Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. The papers also document his activities in various professional organizations, his research and writing, particularly on brain tumors and on Sir William Osler, and his book collecting. The papers include a large correspondence with prominent physicians, medical educators and administrators, former classmates, students, assistants, and patients, World War I colleagues, and book dealers, librarians, and book collectors. The papers also include material relating to several Cushing family members, many of whom were active in nineteenth-century Cleveland, Ohio.
  • McClure, W. Raymond. Prometheus; a memoir of Lucien Price, January 6, 1883 - March 30, 1964 by  (Book, [Boston], [1965] ).
  • Paillière, Madeleine. Hector Hyppolite, Lucien Price (Book, [Port-au-Prince, Haiti]: Société des amis du Musée d'art haïtien du College St. Pierre, 1975 ).
  • Whitehill, W. M. Review of "Prometheus: A Memoir of Lucien Price . . . ." by W. Raymond McCLure, New England Quarterly, 1965.

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