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editor , psychologist , author

Henry Havelock ELLIS, British general editor.


English psychologist and author, best known for his writings on sexual psychology. He was born Henry Havelock Ellis on Feb. 2, 1859, at Croydon, near London, the son of a merchant sea captain. During his father's long absences, he was "the only man in the house," and he came to love and admire his mother greatly. At the age of seven he sailed around the world with his father and developed thereafter a personal shyness never mastered. He read a great deal and in 1871 compiled his first book, The Precious Stones of the Bible.

Ellis had a flair for editing, and started the Mermaid Series of Old Dramatists. These were valuable collections of the works of Elizabethan and Restoration playwrights, which he edited using the unexpurgated texts. He also originated the Contemporary Science Series for which he wrote The Criminal (1889), the first English study of criminology. In the same year he published The New Spirit, studies of contemporary writers such as Walt Whitman, Henrik Ibsen, and J. K. Huysmans, who were little known at the time. During this period he was also collecting material for his monumental, seven-volume work, Studies in the Psychology of Sex. In 1894 he published Man and Woman, which was meant to be a preliminary treatise to the Studies.

Ellis was in constant consultation with Sigmund Freud, was the first to mention him, and helped pave the way for him. Unlike Freud, Ellis did not regard sex as the sole root of all human emotions. Studies in the Psychology of Sex was written largely from a biological and anthropological viewpoint and was intended primarily for scientific readers. When Sexual Inversion (volume two of the series but the first to be published) appeared, it was suppressed as obscene and a bookseller who had sold it was brought to trial. Ellis was extremely troubled over this and was oblivious of the fact that his publisher was a swindler who sold the book as pornography. After this experience Ellis never again attempted to publish his studies in England. In 1901, F. A. Davis Co., in Philadelphia, Pa., published the final volumes. The sixth volume was completed in 1910 and Eonism and Supplementary Studies was published in 1928.

Although Havelock Ellis is best known for his studies of sex, he diligently produced literary works such as Affirmations (1936), social works such as The Nationalization of Health (1892) and The Task of Social Hygiene (1912), travel meditations such as The Soul of Spain (1908), and near-science studies such as The World of Dreams (1911) and A Study of British Genius (1904).

Ellis devoted his later years to writing essays on sex education, to casual journalism, and to what he regarded as his masterpiece, My Life (1939), an outspoken but misleading account of his early life and his marriage to Edith Lees.

His personal life provides a commentary on the calm detachment of his ideas. After an unsuccessful love affair with Olive Schreiner, the South African novelist, he had married Edith Lees, with whom he passed a quarter of a century of progressively tragic misunderstanding. After his wife's death in 1916 he met a young Frenchwoman, Mme. FrançoiseFrancoise Cyon, whose account of his later years, Friendship's Odyssey (written under the pseudonym of FrançoiseFrancoise Delisle) makes it clear that he enjoyed married happiness with her before his death. This is almost the only form of sexual activity which is not adequately considered in Studies in the Psychology of Sex. Ellis died in Suffolk, England, on July 8, 1939.


Ellis left school at 16 without graduating, and in 1875 he sailed to Australia. He remained there for four years and taught in New South Wales for two years while pursuing his self-education. During this period, as he later wrote, he was racked by love for girls, yet was too shy to declare it. At this time, he later said, he underwent a mystical experience that brought him an inner harmony and caused him to accept his inability to express love. He then decided that his life's work would be to examine sexuality and present his findings in an unprejudiced, natural-history manner. Realizing that to do this he must first take a medical degree, Ellis returned to England and spent seven years taking the medical course at St. Thomas' Hospital.


Engaged in teaching in various parts of New South Wales, 1875 - 79. Returned to England and qualified as medical man, but only practised for a short time, having become absorbed in literary and scientific work. Edited the Mermaid Series of Old Dramatists, 1887-1889. Fellow of the Medico-legal Society of New York; Honorary Fellow of the Chicago Academy of Medicine; Foreign Associate of the Soci6t£ Medico-Historique of Paris, etc.; general editor of the Contemporary Science Series (1889).


  • book

    • The Precious Stones of the Bible

  • Other Work

    • Mermaid Series of Old Dramatists

    • Contemporary Science Series

    • The Criminal (1889)

    • The New Spirit

    • Studies in the Psychology of Sex

    • Man and Woman

    • Studies in the Psychology of Sex

    • Sexual Inversion

    • Eonism and Supplementary Studies

    • Affirmations (1936)

    • The Nationalization of Health (1892)

    • The Task of Social Hygiene (1912)

    • The Soul of Spain (1908)

    • The World of Dreams (1911)

    • A Study of British Genius (1904)

    • My Life (1939)

    • Friendship's Odyssey

    • Studies in the Psychology of Sex