Once, he was viewed as a strong contender for one of Maryland's U.S. Senate seats, and he was expected to ride on a wave of conservative opinion he helped create.

Instead, five years after he disclosed what he called his "twin compulsions toward alcoholism and homosexuality," a disclosure that cost him the congressional seat he had held for seven years, former U.S. House member Robert E. Bauman said he spends his days doing "not a whole lot."

"I practice a little law. I wrote a book. I'm still a conservative," said Bauman, now 48 and living in a rented Capitol Hill apartment with his roommate and his dog.

He no longer drinks, and said he sees his four children as often as possible. But mostly, said the cofounder of the American Conservative Union and one-time defender of the extreme right, "I try to have peace of mind and live as peacefully as I can, under the circumstances."

The "circumstances" are all too familiar to the GOP establishment that once saw Bauman as a rising star. In October 1980, weeks before a general election, Bauman disclosed that he had been charged with soliciting sex from a 16-year-old youth. He pleaded innocent but agreed to undergo counseling in return for probation.

Bauman narrowly lost the election, then tried to make a comeback in 1982. But he withdrew from the race when he found the scrutiny and the ridicule too unsettling.

These days, Bauman said, he has long since given up seeking "a cure" and accepts the fact that he is homosexual. Rejected for several administration jobs for which he had applied, he decided to write his autobiography, tentatively titled "The Gentleman From Maryland" and due out in May. (He has the same agent as James Michener, a former neighbor from the Eastern Shore.) Much of it will deal with his recent history, some of it with his political observations.

"I'm suggesting that conservatives need to develop what I'd call, for want of a better word, a humane conservatism. We can look at the problem of welfare, the institutional issues, but we need to look at the welfare mother. Some of these regulations might or might not make the difference between somebody getting enough to eat.

"Of course, I've had to consider a lot of things in relation to what I've experienced," he said.

There has been, he said, no wholesale conversion. One of the original authors of the Hyde amendment barring use of federal funds for abortion, Bauman still adamantly opposes abortion. And to women who contend that his stance is an invasion of their civil liberties, he replies, "Women don't just get killed in the womb."

He said he feels like a sinner. "I carry my Catholic guilt with me . . . . Being a homosexual is not a sin. Having homosexual acts is a sin. And there's no reconciling that."

Nevertheless, he said, "I think if I were back in Congress I think I'd change my position on a lot of things. I think you have to look at how your policies affect people. I never voted for a foreign aid bill, for example. I'd rethink some of my trips to Managua Nicaragua and think about why people there prefer the Sandinistas to the United Food Co. Too often, conservatives look at everything in terms of us versus them, communists and free agents, and it's more than that."

Bauman had to admit that the announcement that his old nemesis, liberal Republican Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr., will not seek reelection awakened his politial ambitions, however slightly.

But then, he said, "I don't have any grandiose ego any longer. I've been though something that went to the fundamental nature of my being. I came out as a human being, I hope, a lot more sympathetic and understanding human being. I'm just learning to deal with things as they are."