'Pooh!' rejoined Miss Pross; 'you were a bachelor in your cradle.'
'Well!' observed Mr Lorry, beamingly adjusting his little wig, 'that seems probable, too.'
'And you were cut out for a bachelor,' pursued Miss Pross, 'before you were put in your cradle.'
'Then, I think,' said Mr Lorry, 'that I was very unhandsomely dealt with, and that I ought to have had a voice in the selection of my pattern.'
There's got to be a way into writing about Dickens and... not homosexuality exactly, because the whole point would have to be that it wasn't homosexuality yet. (If you wanted to start your essay, maybe the fact that 1870, the year of Dickens's death, just happens to be the year that Foucault chooses for the birth of the concept of the homosexual). I know, vaguely, that Kosofsky Sedgwick has done stuff about Headstone and Wrayburn and Our Mutual Friend, and the sheer cruisiness of those walks through London. But there's surprisingly little out there, critically, on him and this topic. Frustratingly for me, there seems to be absolutely nothing that I've come across, in the twelve volumes of his letters, to suggest that he was in any way consciously plugged in to the possibilities of gay life via friends who had open same-sex relationships - unlike, say, Browning and his 'two dear Greek ladies'. (Which... Dickens knew everybody. He was keen on the theatre. There's got to be something, somewhere?)
I've just been re-reading A Tale of Two Cities, which seems almost comically suggestive in terms of what would later harden into recognisable queer stereotypes - Miss Pross, the mannish strong spinster devoted to pretty, clinging Lucie Manette (and thinking that the only man good enough to marry her would be her brother); Mr Lorry, the fussy bachelor. And, you know, the exchange above, which would seem to lead so perfectly and neatly to identities and homosexuals as a noun and sexology and John Addington Symonds. Except that it's too neat: and it seems obvious, in context, that Mr Lorry is regretting the fact that he's not going to have a bride like Lucie, he's not regretting his Sekrit Gay Life. So I guess the essay would have to be: what or how much did Dickens's novels contribute, consciously or unconsciously, to the eventual formulation of homosexual types, to ideas about what homosexuality was? And the gossipy, curious, unacademic question would be: how much did he know? And what did he think about it?