Wednesday, 2 May 2018

This Small Cloud: a Personal Memoir by Harry Daley

Reviewer: David Dawson

What We Thought:

It’s unusual to review a book that’s out of print, but I highly recommend this fascinating dive into England’s social history, and a time when being gay was punishable by imprisonment. This Small Cloud was published posthumously in 1987. There are second hand editions available, and I’m willing to lend my copy. It’s an important book.

Harry Daley was born in Norfolk in 1901. He knew from an early age that he was gay. During his life he was a merchant seaman, a London policeman, a member of the Bloomsbury Set, and E. M. Forster’s lover.

He encountered many famous people, including Prime Minister Bonar Law, the women’s rights campaigner Marie Stopes, and media magnate Lord Beaverbrook.

Daley’s writing is candid and direct. In life he was honest and open, and never hid the fact that he was gay. He writes about the prejudice he faced, both in youth and later in the Metropolitan Police in London. He never denied his sexuality, but importantly, he never allowed senior officers in the police force to get the better of him, or hold back opportunities from him.

He was bullied by some of his colleagues, and describes in the book how the bullies “were ex-Guardsmen who looked on homosexuals as a source of extra income. They couldn’t resist telling of their adventures with rich old queers but anxious not to give themselves away completely always ended with ‘Of course – directly he touched me – biff bang wallop.’ Of course!”

In the mid-twenties he became a part of the Bloomsbury Set and began a relationship with E. M. Forster. The writer was not the only person to fall for Daley, and Daley is clear that his preferences were for what he called “normal men” who were older, rougher and stronger than himself.

This was a surprising book in many ways. Daley gives fascinating descriptions of a side of early twentieth century Britain I had not read about before. His writing style is accessible, and he tells a good story. This is first-hand social history, and it’s first-rate.

You’ll enjoy this if you loved: Fighting Proud by Stephen Bourne

Avoid if you dislike: Some limited descriptions of gay sex

Ideal accompaniments: A spam sandwich and a pint of stout

Genre: Autobiography LGBTQ

1 comment:

  1. I was told this book was entitled one small cloud, so had a problem finding it at first(also confused Daley with fellow PC and partner of E M Forster-Bob Buckingham).Daley's great niece has written about Nigerian art under her maiden name of Salmons.

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