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Lost Autobiography of Samuel Steward: Recollections of an Extraordinary Twentieth-Century Gay Life

by Samuel Steward University of Chicago Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 288 pages
AU$66.00 NZ$68.70
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On August 21, 1978, a year before his seventieth birthday, Samuel Steward (1909–93) sat down at his typewriter in Berkeley, California, and began to compose a remarkable autobiography. No one but his closest friends knew the many different identities he had performed during his life: as Samuel Steward, he had been a popular university professor of English; as Phil Sparrow, an accomplished tattoo artist; as Ward Stames, John McAndrews, and Donald Bishop, a prolific essayist in the first European gay magazines; as Phil Andros, the author of a series of popular pornographic gay novels during the 1960s and 1970s. Steward had also moved in the circles of Gertrude Stein, Thornton Wilder, and Alfred Kinsey, among many other notable figures of the twentieth century. And, as a compulsive record keeper, he had maintained a meticulous card-file index throughout his life that documented his 4,500 sexual encounters with more than 800 men.

The story of this life would undoubtedly have been a sensation if it had reached publication. But after finishing a 110,000-word draft in 1979, Steward lost interest in the project and subsequently published only a slim volume of selections from his manuscript.

In The Lost Autobiography of Samuel Steward, Jeremy Mulderig has integrated Steward’s truncated published text with the text of the original manuscript to create the first extended version of Steward’s autobiography to appear in print—the first sensational, fascinating, and ultimately enlightening story of his many lives told in his own words. The product of a rigorous line-by-line comparison of these two sources and a thoughtful editing of their contents, Mulderig’s thoroughly annotated text is more complete and coherent than either source alone while also remaining faithful to Steward’s style and voice, to his engaging self-deprecation and his droll sense of humor. Compellingly readable and often unexpectedly funny, this newly discovered story of a gay life full of wildly improbable—but nonetheless true—events is destined to become a landmark queer autobiography from the twentieth century.

Foreword by Scott Herring


Sources Cited by Short TitleIntroduction

1 Woodsfield, Ohio (1909–27)

2 University Years (1927–34)

3 Out of the Nursery, Into the Wide Wide (1934–36)

4 Chicago and Friends (1936–65)

5 The Magic Summer (1937)

6 Gertrude and Alice (1937–67)

7 The Allergy Years (1932–49)

8 Anomalies and Curiosities (1945–48)

9 The Worst of All Drugs (1920–47)

10 Whither Now Wilt Thou Fare? (1948–56)

11 Dr. Prometheus (1949–56)

12 I, Tattoodler (1954–65)

13 Farewell, My Lovelies (1948–65)

14 Calor di Forni (1965–70)

15 Becoming Phil Andros (1927–78)

16 Oktoberfest (1970–81)

17 A Bonsai Tree, a Dog or Two (1973–81)


Tim Dean, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

“The material is intrinsically interesting; Steward is an engaging prose stylist; and Mulderig is a meticulous and reliable editor who lays out sound editorial principles and accompanies each chapter with judicious notes, glossing the various personae and cultural references with which some contemporary readers may need assistance. Certainly the book will be taught in college classrooms, but it will find an extensive audience outside the university too because it is compulsively readable. A remarkable work.”

Joseph Allen Boone, University of Southern California

“Exceedingly enjoyable, well-paced, and fascinating. The English major in Steward gives him a sly but delectable way with words that surfaces in delicious turns of phrase every now and then, adding literary quality to what is, hands down, already a fascinating life story. The sheer number of important literary figures that Steward, in his young life, seeks out and befriends and (more often than not) beds makes this a page-turner.”

Jeremy Mulderig is an emeritus professor in the Department of English at DePaul University in Chicago. Samuel Steward (1909–1993) was a poet, novelist, and for nearly twenty years a professor at Loyola and DePaul universities in Chicago. In 1956, he left academia and became a tattoo artist in Chicago and later in Oakland, California, and thereafter the author of a popular series of pornographic gay novels. Scott Herring is James H. Rudy Professor and associate chair of English in the Department of English at Indiana University. He is the author of The Hoarders: Material Deviance in Modern American Culture, also published by the University of Chicago Press.