Love letters between Benjamin and Peter go on displayExtracts from letters between Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears have gone on display at the Red House in Aldeburgh, the Suffolk home which Britten, one of Britain’s greatest composers, shared with the tenor.
Extracts from letters between Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears have gone on display at the Red House in Aldeburgh, the Suffolk home which Britten, one of Britain’s greatest composers, shared with the tenor.
“I live for Friday, & you. My man— my beloved man,” writes Britten. “My most beautiful of all little blue grey, mouse catching, pearly bottomed, creamy-thighed, soft-waisted mewing rat-pursuers! How are you? My beauty!” Pears writes in 1941.
The letters are part of an exhibition that is one of a number marking the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, when homosexual acts between men over 21 in England and Wales were decriminalised.
Pears was Britten’s muse, collaborator and lover for 39 years, but for most of that time it was a desperately dangerous life to live.
In public, they were not a gay couple. In private, the letters, first published last year, appear to reveal an ardent and joyful love.
The exhibition contrasts the experience of Britten and Pears with other high-profile figures of the time, such as Noël Coward and his partner, Graham Payn—a couple who avoided writing letters that would have given away their relationship. The exhibition includes a letter written by the codebreaker Alan Turing, who pleaded guilty to gross indecency in 1952 and, given the choice between jail and probation, accepted chemical castration. The exhibition also tells the story of the 1967 act, led by John Wolfenden.