It is to be observed, that straight lines vary only in length, and therefore are least ornamental. That curved lines as they can be varied in their degrees of curvature as well as in their lengths, begin on that account to be ornamental. That straight and curv'd lines join'd, being a compound line, vary more than curves alone, and so become somewhat more ornamental. That the waving line, or line of beauty, varying still more, being composed of two curves contrasted, becomes still more ornamental and pleasing, insomuch that the hand takes a lively movement in making it with pen or pencil.
Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty (1753)
Alan Hollinghurst's first novel, The Swimming Pool Library (1988), is set during the summer of 1983. The narrator, William Beckwith, is a young aristocrat of leisure. He lives in Holland Park, swims at the Corinthian Club, a gay gym on Great Russell Street ('the masterpiece of the architect Frank Orme, whom I once met at my grandfather's'), and picks up men everywhere. In a public lavatory in Hyde Park, he picks up, in a quite different sense, an elderly man who has collapsed at the urinal. This is Charles, Lord Nantwich, who also swims at the Corry, and is looking for someone to write his biography: he hires Will. Charles's diaries are in counterpoint to Will's narrative, describing life as a gay man in Britain when gay sex was a crime.
LRB 6 May 2004 | PDF Download