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James Hinton

James Hinton (1822 - 1875) was a British aural surgeon and writer on political, social, sexual and religious matters. His work had a strong influence on several of Schreiner’s circle, in particular Havelock Ellis. Ellis was strongly influenced by James Hinton’s book Life in Nature published in 1862, which Ellis saw as bringing together science and spirituality in a wholly new way. He was especially attracted by Hinton’s notion that human beings and nature were not separate, but flowed into each other, with all living creatures profoundly and inextricably connected.

Hinton was a proponent of polygamy and also sexually abused young girls, and when his son Howard was later arrested for bigamy, there was much speculation within Schreiner’s circle about the extent to which Howard’s behaviour could be traced to his father’s teachings. After Hinton’s death, “Caroline Haddon [Mrs Hinton’s sister] was later forced to reveal the true sexual side of Hinton who was involved with all sorts of women and whose justification for his behaviour was that he was ‘serving’ them as an artist in love.” (Weir 2004). Gossip about how much Ellis shared such views and whether he was sexually involved with various of the ‘Hinton women’ was at the back of Olive Schreiner’s recoil from Elisabeth Cobb and her gossip-mongering. Karl Pearson was a vehement opponent of all aspects of ‘Hintonism’ including the more abstract philosophical ideas, leading Schreiner to wonder whether this might cover some minor ‘slip’ on his part, something he denied.

For further information see:
Phyllis Grosskurth (1980) Havelock Ellis: A Biography London: Allen Lane
Neil Weir (2004) ‘Hinton, James (1822-1875)’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/13354
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