Last edited: December 05, 2004

Wilde’s Lover Considered ‘Victim’

Associated Press, January 20, 2000

LONDON (AP) – Oscar Wilde’s 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 his downfall.

Some of Irish poet and playwright’s best-known works include "The Importance of Being Earnest" (1899) and "An Ideal Husband" (1895).

Britain’s 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 Douglas.

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 Wilde’s 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 in conviction.

The relationship infuriated Douglas’ father, the Marquess of Queensberry, who left a visiting card at Wilde’s 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 Queensberry’s lawyers had evidence of Wilde’s 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.

[Home] [World] [United Kingdom]