Hon. Desmond Edward Parsons (13 December 1910 – 4 July 1937) was an aristocratic aesthete, regarded as "one of the most magnetic men of his generation." He had a passionate friendship with James Lees-Milne, was the one true love of Harold Acton and the unrequited love of Robert Byron.
Desmond Edward Parsons was born on 13 December 1910, the third child of William Parsons, 5th Earl of Rosse and Frances Lois Lister-Kaye (1882-1984), and the younger brother of Michael Parsons, 6th Earl of Rosse.
In 1934, Desmond Parsons, a brilliant linguist, went to China to reach his friend, and possible lover, Harold Acton who was in Beijing lecturing at the Peking National University. According to Acton's friends, Parsons was Acton's "one true love of his life".
In China Parsons visited the caves at Dun Huang. He removed a wall painting using tools and was caught when he tried to carry it away in his vehicle. He was released after the British government intervened. His photographs of the place were later acquired by the Courtauld Institute of Art.
Parsons was also the great, but unreciprocated love of Robert Byron, a travel writer. In 1934 they lived together in Peking, where Parsons developed Hodgkin's Disease. His brother, who was visiting him, managed to bring back Parsons to Europe where he died on 4 July 1937. Byron died in 1941 when the ship he was travelling was attacked during World War II.
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