1835-1921

"I am not a homosexual, I am a pederast." 

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) may not have written music that probes the extremities of human emotion, but he had a special genius all his own, one that embraced flair, clarity, an unerring dramatic sense and a streetwise, boulevardier wit. His works, which number more than 200, encompass every genre from 13 operas, including Samson et Dalila, and the first film score by a well-known composer (L'Assassinat du duc de Guise, 1908), down to a virtually unknown mini-extravaganza for a band of toy instruments entitled Les odeurs de Paris.

It's generally thought today that Saint-Saëns was queer, but tried for years to live a "normal" life. Aged 40, he married Marie Truffot, some 20 years his junior; they settled, together with Saint-Saëns's ever-dominant mother, in a fourth-floor apartment in Paris, and soon had two infant sons. But in 1878, two-year-old André fell out of a window and was instantly killed. Overcome with grief, Marie was unable to feed the six-month-old baby; he was sent to her mother for care, but failed to thrive and died soon afterwards.

Saint-Saëns - who, in a stroke of horrible irony, had been writing his Requiem just beforehand - never recovered from the loss of his children and felt that his wife was to blame. His marriage hung by a thread for three years, until, while the couple were on holiday, he went out one day - and never went back. [link]

After abandoning his wife, Saint-Saëns traveled extensively. He began spending winters in French-speaking Algeria, which became a favoured holiday spot for European homosexuals who enjoyed the adolescent male companionship easily available there. [link]

Camille Saint-Saëns profile