Oscar Wilde has written some very well known, very popular works. His book length masterpiece, The Piture of Dorian Gray, first published in 1890, now a classic of English literature, was required under the covers with a flashlight reading for a young girl in the late 1970s. Yes, I was a book geek back then. He’s equally well known for his comedy play, penned in 1895, The Importance of being Earnest, which has been staged around the world both on the biggest stages and in local community theaters and high schools.
Wilde published many short stories and poems as well as his book and his plays. He was a renowned journalist in his day. His fame drew the eyes of the world upon him. He, at the height of his popularity, sued the Marquess of Queensberry for libel (slander upon his character, in print). The Marquess, as it happened, was the father of Wilde’s gay lover (or “greek love” as Wilde would have called it0, Lord Alfred Douglas. His attempt at justice for himself backfired as it lead to his own criminal arrest for “Gross Indecency with Other Men”. He would be tried twice and end up sentenced to two years at hard labor for his “crimes”. He spent part of 1895, all of 1896 and part of 1897 imprisoned. He wrote, but only a little during that time. He was not allowed to send anything he wrote out of the prison he was confined in.
Oscar Wilde died of Cerebral Meningitis in November of 1900. He was, living in France having never returned to England or his native Ireland after his release from prison, and all of age 46 and destitute at his death. He would become even more famous in death than in life.
The 2004 book, The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde, by Merlin Holland, covers the two trials of Oscar Wilde utilizing their written transcripts. It’s a fascinating look at a prosecution for gay acts in 1895 that still hits home, in many ways, today.
The publishers description:
Oscar Wilde had one of literary history’s most explosive love affairs with Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas. In 1895, Bosie’s father, the Marquess of Queensberry, delivered a note to the Albemarle Club addressed to “Oscar Wilde posing as sodomite.” With Bosie’s encouragement, Wilde sued the Marquess for libel. He not only lost but he was tried twice for “gross indecency” and sent to prison with two years’ hard labor. With this publication of the uncensored trial transcripts, readers can for the first time in more than a century hear Wilde at his most articulate and brilliant. The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde documents an alarmingly swift fall from grace; it is also a supremely moving testament to the right to live, work, and love as one’s heart dictates.
The author, Merlin Holland is a biographer and editor by trade. His own family tree counts Oscar Wilde as his grandfather. Wilde’s wife Constance changed her last name to Holland after her husbands indecency trial and his fall from grace. Vyvyan Holland, Wilde’s second son, is the author Merlin’s father. Incidentally, Holland’s 2nd wife, Dorothy Thelma Helen Holland, was the only grandchild of Oscar Wilde.
His insider status in the Wilde family makes this book a true must read!