John Henry Mackay

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John Henry Mackay (1864-1933) was an individualist anarchist, writer, and boylover. Hubert Kennedy has written extensively about his life and works.

Early works

Mackay became famous in 1891 with his study Die Anarchisten which was translated into English (The Anarchists) and six other languages. He also published long poem Helene (1888), the short story Ein Abschied: Ein später Brief (A Farewell: A Late Letter) and a sports novel, Der Schwimmer (1901, trans. as The Swimmer).


Mackay was clear about his own sexual orientation: he was primarily attracted to boys 14 to 17 years old (as evident from his autobiographical novel Fenny Skaller, published as part of "The Books of Nameless Love". He rejected Hirschfeld’s development of the "third sex" theory of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs and the campaign of the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, to reform German law so as to allow sexual activity between same-sex adults. Mackay’s views were closer to those of Adolf Brand regarding man-boy love.

Mackay begun writing on boylove in 1905 under the pseudonym "Sagitta". His first boylove poems appeared in 1905 in Der Eigene, the first ever "gay" journal, edited by Adolf Brand. From 1906, the writings and theories of Mackay had a significant influence on Brand's organisation Gemeinschaft der Eigenen and Mackay became a friend of scientist and organization's co-founder Benedict Friedlander.

The Books of Nameless Love

In 1906, Mackay begun publishing "The Books of Nameless Love", six books in various literary forms, campaigning for the right of men and boys to love one another. The first two books appeared in 1906. They were later confiscated and, after a nineteen-month legal process, they were declared obscene and ordered destroyed. Despite these, the project was completed and issued in a single volume in 1913 and again, in smaller format by popular demand from Wandervogel movement, in 1924. The seventh book of "nameless love" was Der Puppenjunge (1926, trans. as The Hustler) which described "a year in the life of Gunther, a fifteen-year-old runaway from a country village, who is initiated into the life of a boy-prostitute shortly after his arrival in Berlin" (Kennedy 1983).

Mackay died in Berlin on 16 May 1933, apparently of a heart attack, shortly after the Nazis came to power.

Further reading

  • Kennedy, H. (1983) Anarchist of love: The secret life of John Henry Mackay. New York: Mackay Society. (full-text .pdf file 315KB)
  • Kennedy, H. (1991) "Hiding in the open: John Henry Mackay’s 'A Farewell'." Paidika: The Journal of Paedophilia, 2(3), 50–57.
  • Kennedy, H. "Boy-love in the writings of the anarchist John Henry Mackay," in Among Men, Among Women: Sociological and Historical Recognition of Homosocial Arrangements, ed. Mattias Duyves et al. (Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, 1983), 144–148.
  • Kennedy, H. (2002) "Mackay, John Henry (1864-1933)," in glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture, ed. Claude J. Summers. Chicago.

Works of J. H. Mackay

See also