Real Trial of Oscar Wilde

Overview

Oscar Wilde had one of literary history's mostexplosive love affairs with Lord Alfred "Bosie"Douglas. In 1895, Bosie's father, the Marquessof Queensberry, delivered a note to the Albemarle Clubaddressed to "Oscar Wilde posing as sodomite." WithBosie's encouragement, Wilde sued the Marquess forlibel. He not only lost but he was tried twice for "grossindecency" 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 ...

See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$12.58
BN.com price
(Save 33%)$18.99 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (18) from $1.99   
  • New (5) from $8.00   
  • Used (13) from $0.00   
Sending request ...

Overview

Oscar Wilde had one of literary history's mostexplosive love affairs with Lord Alfred "Bosie"Douglas. In 1895, Bosie's father, the Marquessof Queensberry, delivered a note to the Albemarle Clubaddressed to "Oscar Wilde posing as sodomite." WithBosie's encouragement, Wilde sued the Marquess forlibel. He not only lost but he was tried twice for "grossindecency" 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 hearWilde at his most articulate and brilliant. The Real Trialof Oscar Wilde documents an alarmingly swift fall fromgrace; it is also a supremely moving testament to the rightto live, work, and love as one's heart dictates.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
“This narrative remind[s] us what an extraordinary man his grandfather was—and how much he influenced the 20th century.”
The Observer
“An essential for aficionados...at times it is easy to forget that this is not one of Wilde’s own playscripts.”
London Times
“Touching … sharp, unsentimental … an expectedly vivid portrait.”
The Independent on The Wilde Album
“Marvellous … a feast.”
Legal Times
“A fascinating document for anyone interested in the law or literature…as compelling as a Shakespearean tragedy.”
Sunday Boston Globe
“The author has a wry lucid style that moves along briskly...an excellent little book.”
Daily Telegraph (London)
“A gripping and fascinating volume [that]...ranks with the Apology, Plato’s account of the trial of Socrates.”
Los Angeles Times
“Tantalizing.”
Seattle Weekly
“Brilliant.”
New York Times
“Inordinately gripping.”
Sunday Boston Globe on The Wilde Album
“The author has a wry lucid style that moves along briskly...an excellent little book.”
New York Times Book Review on The Wilde Album
“This narrative remind[s] us what an extraordinary man his grandfather was—and how much he influenced the 20th century.”
London Times on The Wilde Album
“Touching … sharp, unsentimental … an expectedly vivid portrait.”
Daily Telegraph (London) on The Wilde Album
“Sharp, unillusioned and free from family piety.”
The Independenton The Wilde Album
"Marvellous … a feast."
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780007158058
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/5/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Merlin Holland is Oscar Wilde's only grandson. He has been researching Wilde's life for the last twenty years. He is the coeditor of The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde

The First Uncensored Transcript of the Trial of Oscar Wilde Vs. John Douglas, Marquess of Queensberry, 1895
By Holland, Merlin

Perennial

ISBN: 000715805X

Foreword

Libel actions are meant to be cases for re-establishing reputations, confounding malicious gossip and allowing the litigant to emerge in a state of unblemished purity. Anyone contemplating such litigation should be warned that those who start libel actions often emerge with their reputations in tatters and, on two notable occasions, end up in prison. Lord Jeffrey Archer and most famous of them all, Oscar Wilde found the entrance to the libel court a direct path to gaol.

Indeed, the steps that led from Wilde's charge against the Marquess of Queensberry to hard labour have a sickening inevitability about them. Wilde's conduct through the three trials that followed seems like a deliberate exercise in self-destruction. The public drama was activated by Queensberry leaving a note at the Albemarle Club addressed to 'Oscar Wilde posing somdomite [sic]'. (It is interesting to see what variations the word gained in these proceedings; Edward Carson, Wilde's cross-examiner, called Huysmans's À Rebours a 'sodomitical' book.) The reaction of any sensible man to the note would have been to take the advice of the majority of Wilde's friends, which was to tear it up and forget it. The way to disaster was to start a private prosecution for criminal libel. The charge necessarily called for the defence of justification. From then on it was Wilde, and not his enemy the Marquess of Queensberry, who was on trial, and he had laid himself open to every form of attack. There were no Queensberry Rules.

Throughout these ghastly events Oscar's wife, Constance, behaved impeccably. Wilde was a devoted and loving father, although he left his sons, Vyvyan and Cyril Holland, a lifetime of concealment and embarrassment. In a book that adds considerably to our knowledge of his grandfather's trials, Vyvyan's son, Merlin Holland, has filled in the many gaps left in Montgomery Hyde's edition in the 'Notable British Trials' series. We can now live again through the extraordinary drama of the aborted prosecution of Queensberry and watch Oscar, the great dramatist, elegant in a black frock coat, leaning across the rail of the witness box, uttering wonderful but occasionally fatal answers: even as he is earning the audience's applause for his greatest flights of fancy, he is being led inexorably by the dogged persistence of his cross-examiner, Edward Carson, towards the prison gates.

Merlin Holland has published, for the first time, further passages of the cross-examination. We now know what Carson thought of Huysmans' 'sodomitical' book, and we get a full account of the fascinating exchange. We also have a full text of the evidence in the magistrate's court and Carson's excellent opening speech for the defence. As a full record of these tragic judicial proceedings, it will not only be of use to future historians and scholars but to all of us who love, admire and are fascinated by this extraordinarily brilliant, lovable and self-destructive genius.

The Criminal Law Amendment Act that forbade indecent conduct, short of penetration between men, under which Wilde was finally convicted, had only been passed some ten years earlier and was rightly known as a 'Blackmailer's Charter'. At his subsequent trials Wilde was faced with the evidence collected by Queensberry's defence team for the first trial. This was mostly about limited sexual activity with various consenting rent boys, and a heavy cloud of blackmail hung around the proceedings. (It is now revealed that one significant blackmailing letter was, unwisely, put in evidence by Wilde's prosecuting counsel, although the defence knew nothing of it). The amount of evidence against Wilde was overwhelming, as he must have known when he first told his solicitor that there was no truth in Queensberry's claims.

That he, on that fatal afternoon, as he admitted later, sat lying to a lawyer, was a fact he tended to blame on Bosie, who had longed for a fight to the death against his savage and eccentric father. As Merlin Holland says, the question we would all have liked to ask Oscar was, 'Why on earth did you do it?' Was it another case of the destruction of an older man by an obsession with a young lover? Did he somehow feel that his huge success had become unbearable and want to destroy it? Was he attracted by the danger of lying and thought he could get away with it it? Or was he, as I believe, a confused and kindly man who did not think, as we would not think nowadays, that he had done anything wrong and that he could rely on his irresistible charm, and his talent for finding clever answers to tricky questions to see him through? If this was so, he was horribly mistaken.

There is a story about Oscar Wilde that, I think, should always be remembered. His friend Helena Sickert's father had died and her mother, grief stricken and inconsolable, had shut herself away in her room and vowed that she would see no one. Wilde called and, insisting on seeing the mother, he got her to open her door to him. An hour, two hours passed and Helena waited for the inevitable tears and demands to be left alone. Then she heard an unbelievable sound; her mother was laughing. Wilde had entertained her, had pleased her, had made her feel that life was still worth living. He showed, in that and many other cases, that charm works wonders.

It did not, in the end, work down at the Old Bailey. Perhaps it caused the jury in his first criminal trial to disagree; but then, when any merciful prosecutor or Home Secretary might have decided that he had suffered enough, it let him down badly and he was finally convicted.

Passing the ridiculous sentence of two years' hard labour, Mr Justice Wills said that men who could do as Oscar Wilde did were 'dead to all sense of shame'.

Continues...

Excerpted from The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde by Holland, Merlin Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
Foreword xi
Introduction xv
The First Magistrates' Court Proceedings 2nd March 1895 1
The Second Magistrates' Court Proceedings 9th March 1895 7
Regina (Oscar Wilde) v. John Douglas 3rd-5th April 1895 25
Wednesday Morning 3rd April
Sir Edward Clarke's Opening Speech for the Prosecution 26
Evidence of Sidney Wright 43
Evidence of Oscar Wilde 45
Edward Carson's Cross-examination of Oscar Wilde 64
On Lord Alfred Douglas 64
On The Chameleon 66
On The Picture of Dorian Gray 77
Wednesday Afternoon 3rd April
On The Picture of Dorian Gray (cont.) 80
On the Stolen Letters 103
On Alfred Wood 111
On William Allen 126
On Robert Cliburn 128
On Edward Shelley 134
On Alfonso Conway 143
Thursday Morning 4th April
On Alfred Taylor 152
On Charles Parker 162
On Frederick Atkins 182
On Ernest Scarfe 197
On Sydney Mavor 200
On Walter Grainger 206
Sir Edward Clarke's Re-examination of Oscar Wilde
On Lord Queensberry's Letters 213
On Edward Shelley 227
Thursday Afternoon 4th April
On Edward Shelley (cont.) 230
On the Other Young Men 237
On Lord Queensberry 242
Edward Carson's Opening Speech for the Defence 249
Friday Morning 5th April
Edward Carson's Opening Speech for the Defence (cont.) 273
The Withdrawal of the Prosecution 280
Appendix A 285
Appendix B 294
Notes 298
Bibliography and Manuscript Sources 327
Acknowledgements 332
Index 335
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)