Wildes Lover Considered Victim
Associated Press, January 20, 2000
LONDON (AP) Oscar Wildes male lover was never prosecuted
alongside the writer for homosexual acts, partly because Lord Alfred Douglas was viewed as
the "victim" in the affair, according to newly released documents.
Wilde was a 38-year-old married man a century ago at the height of his powers as a
dramatist when he embarked on an affair with the 22-year-old Douglas that was to lead to
Some of Irish poet and playwrights best-known works include "The Importance
of Being Earnest" (1899) and "An Ideal Husband" (1895).
Britains office of public records on Thursday released a letter written by a
senior official more than a century ago that asks prosecutors not to pursue a case against
In the letter, Senior Treasury Counsel Charles Gill urges prosecutors to consider that
Douglas was a young undergraduate at Oxford University when the two met and that Wilde
"obviously exercised" a strong influence over him.
"I think that Douglas, if guilty, may be fairly regarded as one of Wildes
victims," Gill wrote to Sir Hamilton Cuffe, who was director of public prosecutions
at the time.
The letter also said that "immoral relations" between the men could not be
proven in court and concluded that prosecuting the young aristocrat would not likely end
The relationship infuriated Douglas father, the Marquess of Queensberry, who left
a visiting card at Wildes London club, Albemarle, calling Wilde a sodomite.
Under the conventions of the day, Wilde felt he had no choice but to sue for libel, but
the case was a disaster.
After it emerged that Queensberrys lawyers had evidence of Wildes previous
homosexual affairs, he abandoned the case and found himself facing a criminal charge of
gross indecency. He was convicted of homosexual acts committed before his relationship
with Douglas and jailed in 1895 for two years.
After he was released, Wilde left England and died in France a few years later.
Homosexual acts were decriminalized in Britain in 1967.