This article analyses the theory of sexuality, personality and politics developed by the literary critic John Addington Symonds (1840-93). Sections one and two introduce Symonds’ changing reputation as a modernist theorist of ‘sexual inversion’ (homosexuality). Section three examines his conceptualisation of the processes whereby an individual can sublimate sexual urges to create a harmonious and unalienated personality which acknowledges the need to combine transgressive self-expression with social convention. Section four demonstrates how this theory led Symonds to endorse an eroticised form of democratic socialism, while section five explores the culmination of Symonds’ thought in a form of pantheistic idealism. This research is significant in that it extends our understanding of socialism and sexuality into areas that are marginalised and yet historically important.