Jacques d'Adelsward Fersen
- Category : 1880-births
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Split - Small (56,62)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX The Sleeping Phoenix 1
French novelist and poet whose life forms the basis of a fictionalised 1959 biography by Roger Peyrefitte titled L'exilé de Capri (The Exile of Capri). An aristocrat and dandy, he is known for having created Akademos, the first French homosexual magazine. In 1903 a scandal involving school pupils made Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen persona non grata in the salons of Paris, and dashed his marriage plans; after which he took up residence in Capri in self-imposed exile with his long-time lover, Nino Cesarini. He became a "character" on the island in the inter-war years, featuring in novels by Compton MacKenzie and others. His house, Villa Lysis, remains one of Capri's tourist attractions.
As he was related on his paternal side to Axel von Fersen, a Swedish count who had had a supposed relationship with Marie Antoinette, D'Adelswärd took on the name Fersen later in his life to advertise his link with his distant relative.
Apart from joining the military, he travelled extensively and settled down as a writer. He published Chansons Légères (1900) and Hymnaire d'Adonis (1902) and other poems and novels. In 1902 he holidayed in Venice, where he associated with the novelist Jean Lorrain. On his return to Paris he published his novel, Notre Dame des mers mortes.
In 1903 Adelsward and his friend, Hans de Warren, were rumoured to be holding "entertainments" – tableaux vivants of pupils from the best Parisian schools – in his house at 18 Avenue de Friedland. They were arrested on charges of inciting minors to commit debauchery, and Fersen served a six-month prison sentence plus being fined 50 francs and losing civil rights for five years. The "entertainments" had been attended by the cream of Parisian society, a factor which may have induced the court to drop some charges.
After his marriage plans were foiled, d'Adelswärd-Fersen moved to the island of Capri which had already attracted other homosexual or bisexual visitors, such as Christian Wilhelm Allers, Somerset Maugham. E. F. Benson, Alfred Douglas, Robert Ross, Oscar Wilde, Friedrich Krupp, Norman Douglas, and Compton and Faith Mackenzie; and attracted many others during Adelsward's stay.
Lord Lyllian, published in 1905, is one of d'Adelswärd-Fersen's more important novels, satirizing the scandal around himself in Paris, with touches of the Oscar Wilde affair thrown in for good measure. The hero, Lord Lyllian, departs on a wild odyssey of sexual debauchery, is seduced by a character who seems awfully similar to Oscar Wilde, falls in love with girls and boys, and is finally killed by a boy. The public outcry about the supposed Black Masses is also caricatured. The work is an audacious mix of fact and fiction, including four characters that are alter egos of d'Adelswärd-Fersen himself.
Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen spent the rest of his life based in Capri, and died there on 5 November 1923, aged 43, allegedly by suicide achieved through drinking a cocktail of champagne and cocaine.