This collection of approximately 20 letters between Melbourne men Ben Morris and Harry Bruin, covering a period of several months in 1919, consists of original letters handwritten by Morris and carbon copies of Bruin’s replies. Love letters between men from this period are extremely rare in an Australian context, and globally. They were seized by police from Bruin’s home in Harcourt Street, Auburn in October 1919. The police were investigating a report that Bruin and Morris were conducting an intimate affair. The relationship came to light when the mother of one of Morris’ friends, having failed in her attempt to blackmail Bruin, went to the police. Blackmail was an ever-present danger to homosexual men at that time. Homosexual sex was against the law and even gossip alone could ruin reputations, careers and social standing. In refusing the demands of his attempted blackmailer, Bruin took an enormous risk. However, Morris and Bruin were lucky that their letters contained no descriptions of sex acts. It was not illegal to express love for a person of the same sex and when the matter came before the court, the police had no choice but to let the matter drop without laying charges.
Letters like these are rare as potentially incriminating correspondence between men was usually destroyed by the writers or the recipients, to prevent it falling into the hands of the authorities, blackmailers, or disapproving third parties. These letters survived only because they were seized by the authorities for the purpose of prosecution. Morris and Bruin’s letters are also important because, together with the statements taken from the two men and others involved in the case by police prosecutors, they provide insight into the development of the liaison over an extended period. The emotional letters provide rare evidence of a deep romantic affection between two men in their own words.
Quoted from "A History of LGBTIQ+ Victoria in 100 Places and Objects" by Graham Willett, Angela Bailey, Timothy W. Jones and Sarah Rood.